T-shirt shop marks 38 years in Downtown DeLand

Special T's is a mainstay in Downtown DeLand

Special T's is a mainstay in Downtown DeLand

DYNAMIC DUO — Owner Carol DiStefano, left, and manager Elaine Scarfato have seen a lot of changes in Downtown DeLand over the years. DiStefano has operated her store at 108 N. Woodland Blvd. for 38 years, while Scarfato has worked there for more than 26 years.

DYNAMIC DUO — Owner Carol DiStefano, left, and manager Elaine Scarfato have seen a lot of changes in Downtown DeLand over the years. DiStefano has operated her store at 108 N. Woodland Blvd. for 38 years, while Scarfato has worked there for more than 26 years.

BEACON PHOTO/JOE CREWS

Businesses come and businesses go on Woodland Boulevard in Downtown DeLand. Some have tenures of just months, and some remain much longer.

Very few, however, can say they’ve been at the same location on DeLand’s main street for almost four decades. Special T’s can. On March 29, the shop that sells personalized apparel and gifts marked its 38th anniversary at 108 N. Woodland Blvd.

Owner Carol DiStefano has manned the counter there since the business opened. When a visitor asked what her secret was for surviving so long, DiStefano said it was “just hanging in there.”

“You keep on going and hope things improve,” she said. “And you try to change with the times.”

DiStefano started out with customized lettering and iron-on transfers for individuals and business owners, but soon expanded into creating clothing and accessories for the fraternities and sororities at Stetson University.

“That has been a big help,” DiStefano said of the work for the Greek groups.

Her longtime manager, Elaine Scarfato, who has been working at Special T’s for “only” 26 years, started by working a couple of days a week.

“I was just going to take this job until I found something better,” Scarfato said, sounding a bit surprised to have lasted so long. “Who knew?”

The two women have seen a lot of changes over the years.

DiStefano said when she opened, stores like McCrory’s and J.C. Penney still were fixtures in Downtown DeLand. Just a few years later, however, there were a lot of vacant storefronts.

“When I started, there were six empty stores in this block alone,” Scarfato said.

“You don’t see any empty stores now,” DiStefano replied, crediting the MainStreet DeLand Association for keeping storefronts from sitting vacant for long. “The MainStreet program was certainly what started the improvement downtown.”

Special T’s can transfer your design, or use something from its extensive stock of designs and everyday Latin- and Greek-alphabet letters, onto a wide array of T-shirts, jerseys, sweatshirts or other apparel. The business also carries a wide variety of gifts to complement the apparel.

In addition to Stetson’s Greek groups, Special T’s also has worked with fraternities and sororities at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, groups at all the West Volusia high schools, small businesses wanting apparel with company logos and the like, and untold numbers of families wanting matching shirts and jerseys for reunions.

As it has for its entire existence, Special T’s does almost all its work in-house; only some sewing and embroidery work is farmed out.

Special T’s hours are 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday. For more information, call 386-736-3786 or visit www.specialtsdeland.com.

— Joe Crews, joe@beacononlinenews.com

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