It’s no secret that masks capable of deterring airborne COVID-19 aren’t all that easy to come by these days.

But the fact is, they’re being made in large numbers by a company right here in Houston and anybody can obtain them.

The company is Houston Sportswear, and at its location on Industrial Drive on the west side of town, its employees have been producing a wide variety of “collegiate wear” for about 21 years. The company started making masks late last month to meet an obvious demand.

“We do a lot of different things here,” said Houston Sportswear plant manager Vickie McBay. “People are always surprised when they find out what goes on here.”

The one-size-fits-all, double-lined cotton masks are washable and reusable, and are available in nine different colors or patterns. McBay said several big orders had been fulfilled for various clients, including a military base and a major university.

Once complete, the finished products are sent to the firm’s parent company, Third Street Sportswear in Ozark, and shipped out from there. 

MADE IN AMERICA

Third Street Sportswear was founded in 1986 by Brad and Julie Thomas, and the second location in Houston began operation in July of 1999. The Houston plant was originally located at U.S. 63 and Highway 17 (in the building that’s now home to Savor Grill) and operated in the community building at the county fairgrounds for a while. The current location opened in July of 2001.   

Both of the company’s plants produce specialized clothing for people of all ages (from newborns to adults) that depict logos and phrases related to universities and colleges. Third Street Sportswear is also licensed to make products depicting the long-time “Peanuts” character, Snoopy, along with Charlie Brown, Lucy and “the gang.”

“You can buy our garments at the book stores at the colleges we work with,” McBay said. “There’s hardly a college we don’t touch at some point or another. And we do a lot of Snoopy stuff.”

It’s all “made in the USA” from beginning to end, as even the material comes from cotton grown in the Carolinas.

Cotton mask

Houston Sportswear plant manager Vickie McBay wears one of the cotton masks produced by the company.

“Brad has always only bought things made in America,” McBay said. “He feels strongly about that.”

There are 23 employees at Houston Sportswear, including a couple who have been on board for 20 years and several who have been there for 10 years or more. McBay said that whenever she or her cohorts describe to people where they work, the result is almost always the same.

“People say things like ‘where’s that?’ or ‘I didn’t know there was a place like that in Houston,’” she said. “We’re one of Houston’s best-kept secrets.”

Most garments produced at Houston Sportswear feature high-quality screen printing, but embroidery is also available.

“We’re just kind of a quiet little group,” McBay said. “We come in, do our work and go home.”

To order masks made at Houston Sportswear, go online to third-street-sportswear.myshopify.com. Click “catalog” to see the options. Single units are $6.95 apiece, and orders of 5 or more receive a 33-percent discount.

The phone number at Houston Sportswear is 417-967-5581. Mask orders must be placed online. Product catalogs are available.

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