It’s ironic that one of downtown Canton’s biggest cheerleaders grew up in Akron.

In 2015, Amy Eibel and her husband, Greg, launched Little Chicago Clothing Co., which features custom-designed screen printed T-shirts that celebrate Canton.

“For Greg and I, we started the Little Chicago Clothing Co. because we love the community,” she said. “We’re not going anywhere. This is our home.”

Canton acquired its “Little Chicago” nickname during the Roaring ’20s.

The Eibels, who reside and work in Canton Township, make it a point to support downtown Canton’s locally owned restaurants and businesses.

“We’d rather go somewhere unique and different, rather than chain after chain,” Amy Eibel said. “It’s nice to go to places where people recognize you because you’re loyal customers.”

Eibel, who teaches art in the Canton Local School District, said they were inspired to start Little Chicago after the emergence of the Arts District and new developments, such as the upcoming Pro Football Hall of Fame Village.

“It just seemed like what was missing was something to wear,” she said. “We saw cool things for Cleveland, Columbus, even Akron where I grew up. We kept waiting and waiting for somebody else to do something. I have more creative energy than I know what to do with—so, we did it.”

Eibel said that because Greg, a social studies teacher, is a history buff, and his family hails from the Canton area, she had a ready source of good ideas for shirt designs.

She said Little Chicago Clothing Co. is unique in that it offers “true-to-size” T-shirts for women “who are not juniors.”

“For women who still want to show their community pride, they are designs that are a little more feminine and thoughtful,” she said.

The Eibels used to produce their shirts themselves on-site at Print & Press Shop and Studios at 429 Fourth Street NW, where they have retail space, but soon couldn’t keep up with the demand. They now contract with a local printer.

“We appreciate that it’s a small business in Stark County,” Eibel said. “They cater to how we want to do our shirts.”

Eibel said Little Chicago ships to customers across the country. Customers include people who grew up in Canton, or people who visited downtown on a First Friday or during Pro Football Hall of Fame Festival week. Many are repeat customers, she said, who found Little Chicago online or heard about it by word-of-mouth.

“We’re thrilled we’ve developed a loyal following,” Eibel said. “We thought this would be a fun project. It reinforces the ‘cool’ factor of Canton.”

Little Chicago also does designs for other boutiques that want T-shirts touting their particular communities.

Eibel said she hopes Little Chicago can help dispel some misconceptions about Canton.

“People think it’s old and rundown, or it’s past its prime, and it’s not going anywhere” she said. “In fact, there are some new things going on, and the old things are pretty good. There’s way more than people realize. I just want to reinforce that ‘Hey, it’s pretty neat here.’ ”

For 2018, Eibel said Little Chicago will be offering more boutique items and more new styles in limited runs.

Though the couple loves to travel, Eibel said there’s no place quite like Canton.

“We really love coming downtown,” she said. “It’s our go-to spot.”

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Charita Goshay

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