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Sherri Richards, Published April 09 2014

First Avenue's grand plan: Diverse Moorhead company expands its retail space

Moorhead -- As a provider of custom apparel and gear, First Avenue Promotional Products tries to help businesses with their identity.

Now the family-owned Moorhead business is creating a new identity for itself as a retail store. Two levels of products, including a large supply of Moorhead High School Spuds-themed apparel, are on display at 1408 1st Ave. N.

“It helps draw customers in to see how we can help their business and be a part of the community,” Nels Hunstad, general manager, said of the expanded retail space.

In September, First Avenue Promotional Products upgraded to an automatic textile printer, allowing larger quantities of shirts to be printed more quickly. It also still offers manual screen printing.

While graphic design and custom screen printing are First Avenue Promo’s main industry, selling products on-site provides Moorhead students and parents – and even tourists – a local option for merchandise, Hunstad said.

First Avenue Promo is the umbrella company for Old Lutheran, Spud Gear and Merch Me, all of which primarily do business online.

Old Lutheran, which sells Lutheran-themed products and custom gear for churches and youth groups, was started by Hunstad’s father, David Hunstad, in 1999 in the family’s garage. Nels Hunstad recalls as a kid typing in and packaging orders.

Once the company started its own screen printing in 2003, “it dawned on us the sky’s the limit. We can create and create and create,” Nels Hunstad said.

In recent years, the family started Spud Gear, providing Moorhead High School fan apparel as well as custom work for school teams and groups, and Merch Me, which does custom printing for artists and musicians.

David Hunstad said the company works with clients, keeping minimum orders low.

“One of the things we offer is the flexibility of being a smaller company,” he said.

Instead of a sports team needing to collect orders and money upfront, or a band needing to purchase a bulk of shirts in hopes of selling them, First Avenue Promo will design the product and place it online where team members or a band’s fans can order them directly.

The company is also the official supplier for North Dakota Legendary logo products for the North Dakota Tourism Department. Orders placed on the tourism website are fulfilled by First Avenue Promo.

The retail space includes original T-shirts created by First Avenue Promo’s graphic designers – “It’s a fun outlet for our artists,” beyond designing only logos, Nels Hunstad said – Spuds gear and Old Lutheran products, including humorous T-shirts and gift items such as bobblehead dolls.

“One of the things that makes Old Lutheran unique is our history and depth of understanding of our market,” David Hunstad said.

Hunstad said First Avenue Promo takes that same approach to other clients, trying to get businesses to imagine themselves differently.

“You can put a logo on your T-shirt, but is there something else you could put on there?” David Hunstad said.

Readers can reach Forum Business Editor

Sherri Richards at (701) 241-5556