"Titletown Towels" versus the "Terrible Towel"

Heather Smith - Monday, January 31, 2011

Gregg McArthur, McArthur Towel & Sports CEO, has been producing licensed sports towels for years, including Steeler fans’ beloved Terrible Towel. 

Since 1997, McArthur's Baraboo company has produced the most famous rally rag of all, the golden scrap of terrycloth that frenzied Pittsburgh Steelers fans know as "The Terrible Towel."  McArthur Towel & Sports has produced millions of them over the years. Now, with the Steelers heading to their third Super Bowl since 2006, the firm is cranking out hundreds of thousands more.  This time McArthur's plans to do so with a possible bonus.  They hope to produce "Titletown Towels" for the equally frenzied fans of the Steelers' opponent, the Green Bay Packers.

"It's the perfect storm," McArthur said Tuesday as he awaited final approval from the National Football League on the Packers' item.  "We're calling it Towel Wars - the Terrible Towel vs. the Titletown Towel."

This war has lots of winners. There's McArthur's company, of course, which sells the towels to retailers who charge $7.99 to $9.95 for them.  Then there are the employees at Chippewa River Industries, which prints the towels under contract with McArthur. The Chippewa Falls firm is a nonprofit that employs people with physical and mental disabilities, and the potential double run of rally towels is giving it a big boost.  This particular project is keeping about 50 people with disabilities employed.  The company started printing Terrible Towels Sunday night and will expand from two to three shifts if its gets a go from McArthur on the Titletown Towel.

One more towel twist: Revenue from Terrible Towel sales benefits Pennsylvania's Allegheny Valley School, which cares for more than 900 people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.  Over the last 15 years, the nonprofit has received more than $3 million in royalties from sales of the towel and such offspring as "Terrible" baby bibs, totes, earrings, ties and gloves.

The fact that the Steelers are Dallas-bound is nothing but good as far as Dorothy Gordon, chief development officer for Allegheny Valley School, is concerned.  "Certainly, it will mean wonderful things for the Terrible Towel," she said.  Lemanski sees it as a virtuous circle: Disabled people in Wisconsin help make something that helps disabled people in Pennsylvania.  And, of course, there's all the exercise Packers and Steelers fans will get on Feb. 6, waving their towels madly in the air.



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