In October, Russ Gompers, owner of a uniform and embroidery business in Whitestone — a store that just happens to be the official stitcher of the New York Mets’ uniforms — will celebrate 16 years in business.
Gompers has had great success throughout his career and much of it has been recent. Four months ago, his business also became the official stitcher for the New York Islanders and the New York Dragons, an indoor football team.
Next month, Stitches’ second location will open in Harlem. Gompers’ son will run the new branch.
Gompers himself began his career in trucking. It was his father’s operation and he never quite took to it. The business trucked men’s clothes and Gompers noticed that the retail business at that time was either failing or going overseas.
In the late 1980s, he bought a sporting goods store on Northern Boulevard in Flushing. Although the store later failed, it was there that he found his niche in making uniforms.
Gompers opened the first incarnation of Stitches in Bayside. Then, he said, the business began to expand — first taking over space upstairs, then next door — until the business outgrew its location completely. It was at that point that he decided to bring his business to its current Whitestone location.
Gompers’ collaboration with the Mets happened much more quickly. About 14 years ago, he was working with a store in Astoria that had a connection with the team. That year, third baseman Howard Johnson was injured and the Mets brought in a player from the minor leagues who needed a uniform at the last minute. The team’s usual store couldn’t make a new uniform with such a quick turnaround and the job fell to Gompers. That was his first collaboration with the team and he’s been working with them ever since.
A job as the official stitcher of the Mets certainly has its perks, from trips overseas to box seats at Shea Stadium. Gompers’ greatest achievement was accompanying the team to Japan in 2000. He asked Mets’ equipment manager Charles Samuels if he could assist the team in the dugout. “It was the best experience of my life,” he said.
Plus, he added, “a lot of home games here, they take care of me. I sit in great seats.”
Gompers also gets to meet some of the best players, many of whom have come to visit his Whitestone store on 14th Avenue, including Roberto Alomar and Dwight Gooden.
Stitches also does custom logos and embroidery on clothing as well as uniforms for local college and high school teams. The store has even made tour jackets for bands and uniforms for Broadway performers. The store’s Harlem location is scheduled to open in mid-September.
“I love what I do,” Gompers said. “And when you love what you do, that’s what makes you successful.”