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Rio Rancho shop makes shirts that fit you to a T

Rio Rancho T-shirts co-owner Penny Holly looks over banners the business has made. The shop at 1207 Golf Course Road celebrated its 20th anniversary in December. Amy Byres photo.

RIO RANCHO, N.M. — A Rio Rancho business celebrates 20 years of being open and its owners celebrate 30 years of being married.

Wayne and Penny Holly own Rio Rancho T-shirts. They said the last 20 years have been a blessing because of the people in the community.

“We’ve had so many different clients and people. We have some of the best, absolutely the best clients,” Wayne said.

Over the years, customers have brought baked goods, dinner, posters, thank-you cards and more. The shop at 1207 Golf Course Road has two offices, along with three printing and embroidery rooms and a small shop.

Wayne’s office is filled with mementos, one being from former President Barack Obama: On his bookshelf is a challenge coin from the former president to thank him for designing T-shirts for Obama’s inauguration.

“And that T-shirt will go to President Obama’s library and it’ll go on display when the library is finished,” Wayne said.

The shop has no political preference, as it makes custom orders for all political parties. He said there are three rules:

• No profanity,

• No pornography, and

• No obscenities.

Rio Rancho T-shirts co-owner Wayne Holly talks about screen-printing customized T-shirts, a process he typically handles for the 20-year-old business. Amy Byres photo.

The shop does screen printing on T-shirts, a method of garment printing that Wayne is usually in charge of, he said. The screen-printing room is decorated with posters of movies and cars, some given to him by customers, Wayne said.

Penny manages the business finances and does embroidery. She also assists with sewing patches on letterman jackets. Her office is filled with pictures of their family and their four children.

Like many businesses, the shop is being affected by the pandemic. However, the couple believes things will turn around, they said.

About 20 years ago, the shop was across the street from Rio Rancho Inn in Lujan Plaza.

“We feed our employees a lot for lunch. And there was one time we all sat down, and we were saying grace: We prayed, ‘You know, we are really slow, God; could you give us some business?’ and right after lunch about 20 nuns walked into our lobby and they were having a nun convention across the street at Rio Rancho Inn,” Penny said. “They saw the T-shirt sign and they came over, and we ended up making 150 nun-shirts.”

Based on past experiences, the couple believes God has a plan for them, they said.

Rio Rancho T-shirts employee Natalia Owen sews a letter onto a letterman jacket at the 20-year-old store on Golf Course Road. Amy Byres photo.

During the shutdown in March and April, Penny, employee Natalia Owen and friends made over 525 masks to donate to the New Mexico National Guard.

“And I was still paying Natalia’s salary and I was still trying to get the PPP (Paycheck Protection Program),” Penny said. “We were struggling, and then it just got down to the nitty-gritty and we finally got PPP and it was like ‘Yay, thank you, Lord.'”

With many events and activities being canceled, Rio Rancho T-shirts has not made a profit.

“It’s still going to be really tight this year because all of the schools aren’t in session and there are still no sporting events. A good majority of our business is games: YAFL (Young America Football League), baseball and soccer, and they’re not allowed to do that,” Penny said.

Before the pandemic, the couple had seven employees; they now have two.

“When you own a business you have to wear all of the hats,” Wayne said.

Their graphic designer, Roger Rael, has helped the business create a website where customers can order T-shirts online. In addition, Rael has created social media accounts and is advertising the business online. Penny and Wayne say they are old-school and are thankful for Rael’s youthful expertise.

“I can’t say enough about Roger. He is like my oldest son to me. And I love him like he’s my family and he’s like, ‘Wayne, we should do this and should do that,’ and Penny and I are looking at each other like, ‘Say what?’ How do you think of these things?” Wayne said.

All the employees at the shop are like family, the couple said.

“And I have to tell you we’ve had some of the best employees over the years. This young lady, Natalia Owens, she has to be the best ever, the hardest worker,” Penny said.

Wanting to help every customer, Rio Rancho T-shirts is one of the few shops that will design custom shirts for one person.

“We have people that come from Los Lunas for that reason. And when they come, they bring Girl Scout cookies,” she said.

Being in business for 20 years has taught the couple to help a customer when they can, she said.

For more information, visit rioranchoT-shirts.com or call 891-1521.



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