Those looking for Hastings Raiders apparel will have a new place to purchase clothing and get their fix of ice cream. Schoolhouse Scoop and Special Tees have partnered in what would seem to be an unlikely pairing to make what has so far been a dynamic match.

Beginning with the start of the 2018 school year, Schoolhouse Scoop began a small remodeling project to accommodate a new retail venture along its front wall. Patrons of the ice cream shop will now notice Hastings Raiders apparel and a select variety of gear prominently displayed and up for sale.

Finding a partner

The apparel is provided by Special Tees of Hastings which has gone away from selling its Raiders' products by retail. Dave Kisby, the owner of Special Tees, realized his business had outgrown its capabilities and retail was no longer a viable option. But he also felt without a storefront to offer the Raiders' gear, a void would be left in the community.

Instead of abandoning the practice altogether, Kisby and Kris Almquist, Special Tees' sales manager, starting fishing around the city for a suitable partner.

"We thought about some businesses that already did some apparel but none of them seemed to fit very well," Kisby said. "And then Kris contacted Schoolhouse Scoop, and I've never thought of that before because apparel and ice cream ... well they're not the same thing."

What seemed like an odd partnership at first began to grow on Kisby. The more he thought about the possibilities, the more he realized how much sense it made. For instance, Special Tees' busiest time of the year is fall and the holiday season, exactly the same time that Schoolhouse Scoop has its least amount of foot traffic.

Kisby figured if Schoolhouse Scoop's owners Amy and Mike VanZee were willing to partner, he was ready for them to become his retail arm.

"We couldn't really take on more in the summer because it's so busy, but everything lined up perfectly that the times we're busy, they're slowing down and when they're busy, we're slowing down," Amy VanZee said.

Aside from the from the seasonal benefits, Special Tees is only open until 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, whereas at Schoolhouse Scoop, customers can purchase apparel until 8 p.m. on weekdays as well as weekends.

"People that wanted to shop for that kind of thing outside of our hours were just kind of out of luck," Kisby said.

Location was also a key factor in the decision as Schoolhouse Scoop is located across the street from Todd Field.

"All the varsity home football games, girls and boys soccer games, all that stuff is right there for people to buy," Kisby said.

Lastly, Kisby wanted to find a local partner. Most of the Raiders apparel found elsewhere comes from a national high-volume supplier that doesn't always have accurate depictions of Hastings Raiders logowear. Kisby wanted somebody he could work with so customers could get answers to questions right here in town.

"After thinking about it, I couldn't think of a better company that would do a better job of taking this on," Kisby said.

Raider Rack is born

With all of the backend dealings figured out, aesthetics and branding were all that was left. The VanZees realized their new offerings would need to be given a new name to avoid confusion on people calling them Special Tees. Thus Raider Rack was crafted.

Getting the store prepped wasn't a difficult task for Schoolhouse Scoop as it had ample area to display the new Raider Rack. In fact, the VanZees will be able to rework their store depending on the season.

"As it slows down more, we can take out another table and display more clothes," Amy VanZee said.

"And once it picks up, we can change that up front and do whatever we want," Mike VanZee added.

Although Raider Rack is a partner with Special Tees, it is an independent retailer. The Raider Rack is strictly retail only. Custom or group orders will still need to be handled by Special Tees. The same applies with letter jackets and hockey gear since Raider Rack doesn't have the capabilities to print names on its products.

However, that doesn't mean you can't get your name on a product purchased at Raider Rack. Kisby said that as partners, he will honor his policy of printing names on products sold by them.

And that has become a defining factor in the partnership. While both parties are very independent of each other, both are eager to work with one another.

"It's a perfect match," Amy VanZee said. "It's a perfect time to do it, too. As the weather cools down, people don't want ice cream, but it is sweatshirt weather."