Andy Finney was a teenager in 1983 when his father, Gary, opened Finney Sports in their Keeseville home. “We started with air-dry ink, printing shirts and hanging them in the basement,” he recalled. Today the business offers screen printing, sublimation printing, embroidery, vinyl signs, awards, and trophies at its Route 9N shop in the town of Plattsburgh. Andy, his wife, Melissa, and daughter, Alisha, operate the business; Gary Finney passed away in 2018. “We were close,” Andy said of his relationship with his father. “We really had no choice since he was my coach for sports in high school, my boss and my Dad. Like any family business, hard decisions had to be made and it wasn’t always sunshine and roses but I like to think that I made him proud and that he enjoyed the time he spent with me.”
Finney Sports operated out of the family home for a few years before relocating to Plattsburgh — first in the upper level of the Jay’s Nursery building and then for more than 20 years in the former North Country Shopping Center across Route 9. Twelve years ago, the company moved back across the road to its current location in a building that had served as both a gas station and a bar under previous owners.
When Gary passed away, Andy faced not
only the loss of his father but his mother Gerry’s decision to retire. “It was a huge void to fill,” he explained. That’s when Melissa retired from her job in healthcare and went to work in the shop. “She took over the office as well as helping out front and in the sublimation and vinyl departments,”
Alisha Finney has spent time in the family business since she was a child. “She can perform every process we do,” Andy offered proudly. “Whether it is embroidery, screen printing, vinyl, sublimation, artwork, or waiting on customers, she is not only a good fit, she is the perfect fit.” “Working for family is sometimes a struggle but I wouldn’t have it any other way,” Alisha offered. “We bicker but at the end of the day, work stays at work and we all move on.”
A variety of equipment is necessary to create the products Finney Sports makes including an incline numbering machine, a 4-color hat machine, two screen printers, an embroidery machine, a vinyl cutter, and a sublimation system.
Screen printing has been a key part of Finney Sports’ business for years. The design screen is essentially a stencil for the ink. Each color used in the design needs its own screen, they are layered on top of each other and ink is applied.
Sublimation printing takes a photograph or design and uses heat to fuse the ink into the fabric or other material. The inks turn into gas under heat, then print on the material. The result is a product less prone to fading. “The ink embeds in the fabric rather than being applied to the surface so it won’t wear out,” Andy said of the process. He explained that sublimation is becoming the preferred application process since it holds up well and can be used for apparel, plaques, beer steins, license plates, and face masks, that have become a business staple.
Many of Finney Sports customers are local sports teams, schools and corporate clients. Products are also shipped to customers outside the area several times a week.
Despite their hard work the pandemic has been difficult for the Finneys. “We’ve lost so much business with the schools closing,” Andy
explained. Although the business closed to the public for several months, production kept going. Melissa worked from home and Andy and Alisha were on site daily. “Together, the three of us generated new ideas for the changing times and continued to keep our customers satisfied,” Andy emphasized.
CUSTOMERS ARE LIKE FAMILY
Gary Finney was well-known in the North Country. He was a musician, coach, square dancing instructor, and business owner. “My grandfather was a wonderful man to be around and to work with,” Alisha recalled. “He was a ball of energy. He could light up a room with just a smile and his laugh. He is and always will be unforgettable.”
“Dad was good at connecting with people and bringing business through the door,” Andy recalled, “but he didn’t know much about the production side. We understand the ins and outs of the production side of the business and are proud of the relationships we are building with customers. The North Country is a tight-knit community and we love it here.”
“I love everything about this job, but the best is getting to chat and build relationships with all of our customers,” Alisha said. “When people come here, they become family.”
7226 State Route 9
Plattsburgh, NY 12903