Becci Petersen supports her community one T-shirt at a time

Apr 5, 2023 | Business | 0 comments

The Rocket Shop struggled last year with COVID difficulties and staff shortages, but owner Becci Petersen, right, pressed on with Front End Manager Melissa Hovatter and a small, committed staff. “I don’t have people that work for me. They work with me,” said Petersen. (Photo by Sheri Trusty)

BY SHERI TRUSTY

Becci Petersen began an embroidery business in her garage more than two decades ago. Hard work and a commitment to the community caused her customer base to explode, and she quickly outgrew the space. By fall, she had to rent a building in downtown Oak Harbor.

“My mom and I were doing craft shows. Mom really got into the craft side, and I veered into the clothing embroidery side. It really took off from there,” Petersen said.

Petersen’s garage hobby grew into the The Rocket Shop, a nationally respected, woman-owned clothing business offering sports apparel, business apparel, custom embroidery and screen printing services. The Rocket Shop is now at 251 W. Main St., Oak Harbor. Contact them at 419-898-7909 or therocketshop@rocketmail.com.

Providing sports apparel and accessories for Ottawa County schools serves nearly 100 schools across Ohio, Indiana and Michigan. The shop designs and manages online merchandise stores for several nationally-recognized companies and offers logo clothing and laser engraved products to many corporate clients.

Schools often rely on The Rocket Shop to provide last-minute championship apparel for its sports teams.

“We’ll get the call that someone won, and we’ll launch within minutes,” Petersen said. “These kids put in countless hours of training, so I love to make them look good and feel good.”

Petersen’s commitment to service extends far beyond her school and corporate clients. Every week, she steps into the difficult, personal stories of the people in her community by running fundraisers through The Rocket Shop. Petersen’s charitable work is done in the shadows because she finds value in quietly giving back.

Petersen’s current fundraiser is personal to her. Her childhood neighbor, Todd Hablitzel, is battling cancer. The Rocket Shop is selling “Everyone Needs a Hero” shirts in his honor. Hablitzel owns Oak Harbor Hardware Company and is well-known as a big-hearted community supporter. All of the money from t-shirt sales will be donated to Hablitzel’s medical expenses.

Becci Petersen built The Rocket Shop into a thriving business serving nearly 100 schools and numerous corporate clients. She relies on her stepson and The Rocket Shop’s lead screen printer, Michael Petersen. (Photo by Sheri Trusty)

“This community loves Todd,” Petersen said. “Everything here is about community. You don’t get that in a big city.”

Petersen has been running her business and multiple fundraisers in the midst of her own challenges. By January 2022, she had outgrown her most recent building, dealt with pandemic difficulties, and struggled to find staff. She nearly closed The Rocket Shop.

“We always had multiple school kids begging us to work here. Now, there’s no one,” she said. “I didn’t know if I had the energy to basically start over. After COVID, it was kind of go big or go home, but I decided it was worth it.”

The Rocket Shop was moved into a larger facility downtown, but then a waterline broke during the winter to extensively damage the building. Petersen and her staff had to keep filling orders in the midst of remodeling chaos.

“We had to start over again,” she said. “It was a nightmare the last couple of months, but challenges present themselves, and you move on. We’re getting past this, and we’ll make it bigger and better.”

Petersen’s work ethic has always been the foundation of The Rocket Shop’s success, and she said that the business’ growth was neither buoyed nor stymied by the fact that she is a woman.

“I think it’s just about getting out there and working hard. That’s always been my thing. You get out of it what you put into it, whether you’re a man or a woman,” she said. “I love making t-shirts. I live for what I do.”

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