Seaside Silk offers cool swag for brewers

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By Jenny White

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Next to the beer, fans of craft breweries really like the brewery swag you can get at your favorite taproom.

T-shirts, hoodies, ball caps and stickers are fast becoming part of the experience of supporting a craft brewery.

SeaSide Silk Screening, a family-owned business in Wilmington, has emerged as a T-shirt production powerhouse, partnering with numerous breweries along the coast to fuel an unofficial and ongoing rivalry among brewers for the coolest branded T-shirt. As a wholesale silk screening production company, SeaSide Silk Screening has found a niche in offering its services to craft breweries up and down the North Carolina coast.

“As the craft brewing industry kind of exploded in and around Wilmington, we found we had products that were valuable to these local breweries,” said Matt Sadler, sales manager at SeaSide Silk Screening.

Sadler said breweries find branded merchandise offers another revenue stream for the business, as well as serving as important marketing tools.

SeaSide Silk Screening partners with Front Street Brewery in Wilmington to produce some of the brewery’s most in-demand T-shirts. Josh Cranford, manager at Front Street Brewery, said a once-a-year T-shirt promoting their Polish-inspired beer is one of their best sellers.

“We sell it in conjunction with a community Polish festival and the locals scoop it up really quickly,” Cranford said.

Cranford added that in addition to their always-in-stock T-shirts, they work with SeaSide Silk Screening about four times a year to produce a seasonal T-shirt, and the designs are always popular. Many breweries offer seasonal merchandise, changing up their T-shirt designs to correlate with their beer offerings.

“We always have T-shirts available, but our regular customers and people from the local community know when these seasonal shirts come out that they’re special — and they buy them up quickly,” Cranford added.

Being able to order small or big is one way SeaSide Silk Screening is able to work with breweries to offer the best product for their needs.

“A brand new brewery may want to start small,” said Sadler, “and we can start out with a run of just 24 shirts screen-printed or six embroidered shirts. We want to help them grow. SeaSide Silk Screening started out small, too — we know what it’s like being a small business.”

Today, the company produces about 15,000 shirts a week for hundreds of customers.

Mark Sblendorio, who owns and runs SeaSide Silk Screening with his family, said the quick turn-around time, wide variety of products at different price points and the customer service is what makes his company stand out.

And he really likes craft brewers.

“As an entrepreneur myself, I'm always drawn to the stories of people forging forward with their dreams of running their own business. I've experienced some of those same things over the years and I like learning about how other people succeed and get it done,” Sblendorio said.

"I find this niche of craft brewers really fascinating and I always learn something new from this group of entrepreneurs,” he added. “They all find their work very rewarding and have a real passion for what they're doing. They're smart and forward-thinkers and I'm excited to work with these guys as they're always looking for better ways to serve their customers and be creative to build their brands."

Cranford agrees that creativity is an important part of marketing a brewery. He says just as important as being a revenue stream for Front Street Brewery, the T-shirts serve as an avenue for the brewery to illustrate who they are and what is important to them as a business and as a member of the community.

“A good-looking, well-designed T-shirt is a great walking billboard for your business,” Cranford said. “It will be a first impression for many people, showing what your brewery is all about.”