Wednesday, November 30, 2022
Nov. 30, 2022

Linkedin Pinterest

T Town Apparel, a Tacoma brand that cares, faces uncertainty after death of co-owner

By
Published:

In March 2020, Gail and Pat Ringrose quickly realized they wanted to help. The owners of T-Town Apparel, a well-known screen-printing and embroidery shop that wears its Tacoma pride on its sleeve, the Ringroses saw firsthand the toll that the emerging COVID-19 pandemic was taking on small businesses. They had to do something, Gail Ringrose recalled this week.

So the shop — which has long occupied a nondescript facility on Market Street not far from the University of Washington Tacoma — launched its #TacomaStrong T-shirt campaign. The big idea was straightforward: T Town Apparel would partner with beloved local businesses and produce T-shirts featuring their logos, offering the shirts for $20 a pop and sending half of the cost straight to the participating bars, restaurants, boutiques, law firms and doggy daycares.

By the time the dust settled, T Town apparel had raised $40,000 for the businesses, Gail Ringrose said. It’s the type of scrappy effort that has come to define the shop’s approach to building community and its successful brand, she said.

T Town Apparel’s place in Tacoma’s heart was one reason why Gail Ringrose’s Aug. 21 social media post announcing the death of her husband Pat sent waves of shock and grief among people in the local screen-printing industry and beyond. The loss was sudden and hard to reconcile. The pain in Gail’s written words was palpable.

This week I spoke with Gail about the death of her husband and long-time business partner. While she said she was struggling to pick up the pieces, she told me she wanted to honor the man she spent more than 20 years of her life with while also shedding light on the circumstances of his passing. True to form, she said her motivation is helping others.

Pat Ringrose died on Aug. 13, according to Gail, at the age of 58. The cause of death was suicide, she said. Her husband had dealt with depression and anxiety, and T Town Apparel’s business had suffered since the pandemic, putting additional strain on him, she explained.

“There was just a lot of stress and being overwhelmed with our destiny,” Gail said. “It consumed him.”

“I think this community is ready to hear this and have some type of closure,” she added, noting the support she’s received since her initial social media post.

“I didn’t realize that we touched so many people.”

A memorial service for Pat Ringrose is scheduled for Sept. 16 at Holy Cross Catholic Church in Tacoma.

A Tacoma boy

Pat and Gail Ringrose were latecomers to the screen printing, embroidery and production business. The couple first met in 1998, Gail said, and were married three years later. In 2010, after first dabbling in business cards and fliers printed in their basement, Gail decided to leave her job in the health insurance industry to buy T Town Apparel from its original owner. A few years later, Pat followed, handling the business’ books and finances.

The couple quickly set its sights on reestablishing T Town Apparel as one of Tacoma’s go-to screen printing businesses. In 2018, they expanded, adding a storefront in the Proctor District.

According to Gail, Pat was a natural helping to run the business in large part because of his long ties to Tacoma. A graduate of the former Wilson High School, Pat knew someone nearly everywhere he went, his wife said, and never failed to strike up a conversation.

Beyond his family — which quickly came to include Gail’s daughter from a previous marriage, who he helped to raise — Gail said her husband had many passions in life, including golf, fishing and music, in particular the Rolling Stones. Together, the couple saw the band more than a dozen times, she estimated.

Pat was also well known for what Gail described as his “encyclopedic knowledge” of sports, and his infectious sense of humor.

“He had a sense of humor like crazy. We both would just laugh and laugh and laugh,” Gail said.

Pat was also committed to his neighbors, Gail said. Originally from Colorado, she has come to see Tacoma as her second home, she explained, and a big part of that was through Pat and his dedication to the place he grew up.

“I think both him and I have that in our blood,” Gail said of her husband’s drive to help those in need. “It’s just kind of what we do.”

In recent years, the COVID-19 pandemic hit T Town Apparel hard, resulting first in large order cancellations and later in supply issues that made bulk screen printing a challenge. But it never dulled Pat’s dedication to Tacoma, Gail said. But toward the end of his life, he struggled to see a way out for the business, she said, worsening the depression and anxiety he battled.

“We were a well-oiled machine and doing very well. … But our business has been suffering more than what I anticipated because we’ve just never been able to get back onto our feet after COVID like we thought we were going to,” Gail said.

“We just kept fighting, and I think we just fought too long.”

The future of T Town Apparel

On Monday, Gail Ringrose acknowledged that the future of T Town Apparel is uncertain.

One thing she knows, she said, is that things will never be the same.

Before her husband’s death, the couple learned that a rent increase at their downtown location would force the business to leave the spot T Town Apparel has long occupied. While dealing with Pat’s passing, Gail also has been busy packing. The business’ final day on Market Street will be Aug. 31.

For now, Gail said she plans to focus on the Proctor location, moving what equipment she can to the T Town Trading Co. storefront. She’s also received assistance and an outpouring of support from other local screen-printing businesses, she said.

Given Pat’s large role in the business, if T Town Apparel survives, the business will need to change, Gail said.

“The goal is to try to remain in Proctor with our retail store and maybe focusing on some other things, but I will never, unfortunately, be a shop that can mass print anymore. I think those days are over,” Gail said.

“Not only am I suffering Pat’s loss, but that portion of the business is lost, because I can’t do both by myself.”

Resources are available for people who are in crisis or those worried about someone else.

  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: Available 24 hours a day by dialing 988 and at suicidepreventionlifeline.org
  • Lifeline Crisis Chat: suicidepreventionlifeline.org/talk-to-someone-now/
  • Washington Recovery Help Line: 1-866-789-1511

Support local journalism

Your tax-deductible donation to The Columbian’s Community Funded Journalism program will contribute to better local reporting on key issues, including homelessness, housing, transportation and the environment. Reporters will focus on narrative, investigative and data-driven storytelling.

Local journalism needs your help. It’s an essential part of a healthy community and a healthy democracy.

Community Funded Journalism logo
Loading...