Into the Deep

Known as “The Line That Time Forgot,” the Second Avenue Subway underneath Manhattan has been in the works for almost 90 years. Envisioned as a massive expansion of subway services in the Big Apple, it has started and stopped innumerable times. But after recent infusions of money and support, the project is back on track, with the first phase scheduled to be complete in December 2016. According to the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA), the finished line will measure 8.5 miles, running north and south on Manhattan’s East Side, and will necessitate the construction of 16 new stations.

Cary Heller, vice president of sales at All USA Clothing in Keego Harbor, MI, is far removed from the subterranean construction area of the proposed line, but he still receives consistent business from the New York City Transit Authority (NYCTA), the MTA division responsible for public transportation in New York City. NYCTA is responsible for hiring contractors for the project. Heller pitched the idea of commemorative garments for the project’s workers.

“I told my buyer at NYCTA that when he saw them, he would have to place an order because he’d like them so much,” says Heller. The plan was to meet in person in New York later that summer and show some physical samples. “We wanted to do something different, something that would really stand out,” Heller says.

After six months of working late nights, Heller and his team created a package of four screen-printed garments – a T-shirt, long-sleeve Henley shirt, heavyweight premium hoodie and extra-heavyweight fleece thermal-lined jacket – and decided that the orders would be individually wrapped and labeled with each worker’s name.

Once the idea was finalized, Heller flew to New York to meet with the buyer, with the screen-printed samples in tow. “He inspected everything, and he was so excited he wanted to show everyone,” says Heller. “People gathered around and started trying everything on. They showed me around the construction area before I left, and when I got back to Michigan, the PO was on the fax machine.”

Heller made sure not only that the order was delivered on time, but also that each package was labeled and packed alphabetically by name. “I personally flew to the factory to oversee the process for the thousands of packages distributed,” he says. “I called the buyer about a year later to make another bet on a new order, and we’re working on that one now.” – Sara Lavenduski