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A flair for sports

DPH Inc. makes variety of merchandise

September 9, 2012
By LINDA HARRIS - Business editor ( , The Herald-Star

WINTERSVILLE - You name it, chances are Tammy and Jim Hammer have it somewhere in their 2,000-square-foot warehouse off Myers Lane.

Well, maybe not everything. But the Hammers, owners of DPH Inc., do manage to pack quite a bit of pins, patches, coins, jewelry, sport bags and specialty items into the shelves and bins filling the building from floor to ceiling.

DPH, named after their three children - David, Patrick and Hannah - is a licensed Little League supplier, and in peak season, "we probably have half a million pins" in stock at any given time, Jim says.

Article Photos

SELLING JEWELRY — Tammy Hammer and her husband, Jim, have been selling sports-themed merchandise and advertising specialties to a national and international customer base from their Snug Harbor home since 1987. - Linda Harris

But DPH's merchandising flair goes far beyond baseball and softball trading pins.

The locally owned and operated company also carries custom patches, jewelry, sport bags, totes and purses, medallions and umpire coins, all with a sports theme, as well as a host of advertising-inspired items ranging from cozies, pens, fans, keychains, flashlights and flashdrives to stress balls, mini-sport balls, nametags, mugs, divot tools, ball marker hat clips, money clips and dogtags, much of it with "dress-ups" available, like glitter, rhinestones, bobbles and spinners.

And they're in the process of adding a line of brightly colored watches, the kind of thing sports kids - and their moms - won't be able to resist picking up.

"I was in China last December and we went to the market, this gigantic market," he said. "We were walking through and I saw these really unusual-looking watches. ... I bought seven or eight samples, different colors, and put them in my desk, and every once in a while I'd get them out. In May I called China ... to order 500 them and I started taking them to tournaments. Now I can't keep them in stock."

That guessing game, he said, is one of the hazards of the trade.

"There are some things you can't keep in stock, but other stuff will sit in the warehouse for years, you can't give it away," he said. "You just never know."

DPH has been in business since February 1997, though Jim points out he's been doing the same type of work for 42 years before branching out on his own.

"It worked out absolutely perfect for us," Tammy said. "He'd done it for someone (else) for so many years, when he left most of his customers followed."

They settled in Wintersville, mostly because Tammy had family in the area.

"I was trying to figure out how we could be centrally located to the rest of the country," he said, admitting he originally leaned toward locating in Lexington, Ky., because they do so much business in California. "But it worked out much better here."

They started out using their garage as a stockroom, but outgrew the space very quickly and ended up buying a parcel across the road where they built a dedicated warehouse space. They still have their offices in their home in Snug Harbor, which Jim said they can only do because so much of their business is outside the area.

They currently have nine employees - three, including them, who work out of Snug Harbor, five graphic artists in St. Louis and a woman in China.

"We actually design most of our own stuff," he said. "We design it and send it to Sally in China. She goes to the factories and jobs it out. If I like the price, we get them to make prototypes. Once the prototype is approved, we go into production."

The Hammers recently returned from the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pa., where they hosted a huge pin swap. Pin trading is a huge behind-the-scenes team activity for kids participating in the Little League World Series as well as events like the Cooperstown Dreams Park tournaments in Cooperstown, N.Y. He said as many as 500 or 600 people a night crowd into the ballroom they use for the event.

DPH has a worldwide customer base. They ship to faraway places like Sierra Leone, Japan and Germany, as well as communities throughout the United States. While they do some work for local groups, including Progress Alliance and the Fourth Street Health Center, mostly it's out-of-area.

"If I started doing a lot of local trade, I'd have to move up on Main Street," he jokes. "I really like my commute now - I just walk downstairs."

He figures the key to his business' success is that he doesn't treat his customers like, well, customers.

"I've never looked at my customers as customers," he said. "I look at them as friends. I always told my kids, we don't sell anything - we just make friends."

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