We started as Northwest Embroidery back in 1977 by Jim Mickelson almost by accident. At the time, Jim was traveling from Washington to Alaska every other week to work as an administration manager for the Alaska Pipeline when came up with the idea to sell embroidered caps to fellow pipeline employees. Originally he sewed all the patches onto the caps himself while back home in Washington. When his trial run of 300 sold out in three days, he knew he was on to something." he says. "I had all this room on the plane, so I filled it with hats. I just kept hauling hats up there and selling them until I started making more money selling hats than working for Atlantic Richfield."
We originally occupied a rented location in downtown Tacoma with just a single 11 head embroidery machine. Within just a few years, we moved to our current facility in Milton, with two buildings and almost ten times the manufacturing capability. Today, we even manage a branch office in China to handle large specialty orders. Jim is now joined by his two sons Erik and Scott, bringing the company into its second generation.
Technology in our industry has changed dramatically since the early days, and Northwest Custom Apparel has kept on the cutting edge with every improvement. In the old days, the artwork was digitized all by hand, stitch by stitch, into files that could be read my the embroidery machines. The files were saved on large paper rolls with holes punched in them, taking up a large section of our warehouse just to store them. Now designs are digitized directly on our computer screens and are sent immediately through our network to our factory's embroidery machines. Our entire library which used to take up shelves of space now can fit on a memory chip smaller than your fingernail.
Three decades in the business have given us a greater appreciation for the art that goes into creating an embroidered garment. Technology may have helped make things faster, but every item we produce is still manufactured with the same strict attention to detail as it was three decades ago. Throughout the years, technology has changed and trends have come and gone. Through it all, we continue to pride ourselves on the same principles on which the company was founded - top-notch customer service and high-quality products.