A t-shirt business is thriving despite the coronavirus pandemic

RAPID CITY, S.D. (KEVN) - In a time where people are struggling, a Rapid City artist's t-shirt designs are taking off.

Derek "Focus" Smith is a Rapid City artist who is staying afloat financially during the coronavirus pandemic with his detailed t-shirt designs. (KEVN)

COVID-19's impacts on the economy has caused many businesses to close their doors, let go of some workers and limit their spending. But one business is still surviving and thriving.

With the use of a heat press machine and a hand-carved wood spinner created to lay t-shirts to rest after being imprinted, these tools are helping fuel the dream of an artist, especially during this time of pandemic.

"It always seems to be an uphill struggle in the arts no matter what whether its times are good or times are the way they are. Having this here as a fall back is a big blessing," Derek "Focus" Smith said.

With a new shipment of 130 shirts expected to come Tuesday, and just starting the business about two weeks ago, Smith's art is paying the bills.

"To be able to maintain a good lifestyle... without having to struggle, you know, as much as we use too," Smith said.

Jeremy Fields, the director of Thrive Unltd, a community outreach organization, sells shirts of his own and helped kick start Smith's business.

"With all the social distancing its definitely changed the way we do business because we're not able to go and work with large crowds of people like we normally would do," Fields said.

Fields said his organization is taking a hard hit with this pandemic since their whole mission is to travel and interact with people.

He said the contracts they made with companies for the past few months "disappeared" due to the ongoing illness.

Shipments for t-shirts drastically changed when a Denver warehouse closed down out of caution and redirected Fields orders to a warehouse in Illinois. It meant t-shirts would arrive in about three to four days to Rapid City versus just one day.

Though Fields hoped his and Smith's t-shirt business would succeed during this period of quarantine and struggle, he was a little hesitant if people will be able to find the money in their pockets.

"I thought people would be reluctant to spend money. But the response was tremendous." Fields said.

The coronavirus concerns changed business in a way where now Fields and Smith create wearable art in a garage with Smith's detailed design influenced by the Native American culture.

Taking just a couple of hours to design, each symbol has a specific meaning with the overall message of community.

Smith said the cross-like structure refers to the four directions and said "each house has their own troubles and has their own things that fortify them and build them up."

A design symbolizing a moment to build a community up at a time of isolation.

If you want to order a shirt, you need to reach out to Derek "Focus" Smith on his Facebook page.