Just like her grandmother 50 years ago, Shantell Ehrlich launched a successful Grass Valley business by herself
Business-sense runs in Shantell Ehrlich’s blood.
Her grandmother, a widowed mother of six, was the first woman in Nevada County to get a bank loan to open her own business in 1968.
A proud Nevada County native whose family dates back to the Gold Rush, Ehrlich opened Grass Valley Gifts on Neal Street in 2015 featuring Grass Valley-branded souvenirs. As a side business, she began printing custom hats, T-shirts and other merchandise. But slowly her business began to evolve into something different, and her side business began to eclipse the gift shop.
After scoring the coveted distinction of being the only Pacific Headware dealer within a 30-mile radius, suddenly every baseball team in Nevada County wanted a custom-designed hat from Ehrlich’s shop.
That was just the beginning.
“Then the baseball players needed to design their uniforms to match their hats,” she said. “It snowballed from there.”
Today, Grass Valley Gifts mostly serves as the brick-and-mortar home to Nevada County Custom Apparel, where Ehrlich works seven days a week to keep up with the local demand for custom images on the likes of hats, uniforms, T-shirts, sweatshirts, vests and work wear.
A sampling of loyal customers include the Nevada Union football, baseball, softball and tennis teams — along with their booster clubs, Grass Valley Charter School, three Little League teams, 49er Fun Park, Caseywood, 49er Overhead Garage Door, All Star Automotive and many more.
A Nevada County native, sports lover and mother of two teenaged sons, Ehrlich is regularly spotted at local sports games, which she says initially gave her an edge when it came to cornering the Nevada County team uniform market.
But it goes beyond that — she is also known for her meticulous, detail-oriented work and quick turn-around time.
As demand grew, Ehrlich opted to design a website where customers could order large quantities online, which has since streamlined the process. But as far as the physical labor goes, it’s still mostly Ehrlich doing the work herself, with the exception of occasional part-time help.
“I’m self taught,” she said. “I learned completely on the fly and figured it all out. I sit down with the customer and using a computer program we work out a design from start to finish.”
Those who opt to get clothing and hats designed by an overseas company are missing out, said Ehrlich. At the Neal Street store, customers can come in and view samples they can touch and check for sizing — and they can talk about different design ideas.
“If you’re looking for excellent customer service, profound attention to detail, stellar craftsmanship and the ability to creatively collaborate so you have an epic design, then you need to work with Shantell,” said Regina Curry, Grass Valley Charter School’s cross-country track coach and counselor. “She’s a gift to work with and brings zest and positivity to every project. Shantell has helped complete several designs for our school, working with me and students to come up with something really special, and then offering the option to have parents stop in the store or order online at their convenience. Supporting and working with a local, female-owned business that makes cool stuff is a feel good opportunity that is a gift to our community.”
“As a local mom with kids in sports it’s great to have a go-to place for team sporting apparel,” said Stephanie Harvey-Statler, president of Grass Valley Little League. “Shantell has outfitted our whole team, custom tank tops for me and even T-shirts for the grandparents. Whether it’s baseball, basketball or any other sport, Nevada County Custom Apparel is the place to go.”
Ehrlich, who is currently working on 150 Nevada Union football shirts with a deadline of last Friday, said she’s touched when she sees someone wearing one of her store’s hats or uniforms in the grocery store.
“It’s all about community pride,” she said. “The most rewarding part of this job has been all the new people I’ve met, as well as creating new designs with my loyal customers. The greatest part is that one customer often leads to more and more opportunities. I’m so grateful for the support of my friends and family — they were the ones who believed in me when I started down this path.”
Grandma would be proud.
To contact Staff Writer Cory Fisher, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 530-477-4203.
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