MILWAUKEE — Gregg McArthur is sort of like a war profiteer willing to sell assault rifles to both sides.
And his conscience bothers him not one bit. Short of snapping it sharply in the locker room, it’s hard to actually hurt anyone with a hand towel.
Since 1997, McArthur’s Baraboo, Wis., company has produced the most famous rally rag of all, the golden scrap of terry cloth that frenzied Pittsburgh Steelers fans know as “The Terrible Towel.”
McArthur Towel & Sports has produced millions of them over the years. Now, with the Steelers headed to their third Super Bowl since 2006, the firm is cranking out hundreds of thousands more, this time with a bonus:
McArthur is also preparing to produce “Titletown Towels” for the equally frenzied fans of the Steelers’ opponent, the Green Bay Packers.
“It’s the perfect storm,” McArthur said Tuesday as he awaited final approval from the National Football League on the Packers’ item.
“We’re calling it Towel Wars — the Terrible Towel vs. the Titletown Towel.”
This war has lots of winners. There’s McArthur’s company, of course, which sells the towels to retailers who charge $7.99 to $9.95 to them.
Then there are the employees at Chippewa River Industries, which prints the towels under contract with McArthur. The Chippewa Falls, Wis., firm is a nonprofit that employs people with physical and mental disabilities, and the potential double run of rally towels is giving it a big boost.
“This particular project is keeping about 50 people with disabilities employed,” Chippewa River President and CEO Dave Lemanski said.
“We welcome the Steelers and Packers Super Bowl with open arms,” he said.
The company started printing Terrible Towels Sunday night and will expand from two to three shifts if gets a “go” from McArthur on the Titletown Towel.
One more towel twist: Revenue from Terrible Towel sales benefits Pennsylvania’s Allegheny Valley School, which cares for more than 900 people with intellectual and development disabilities.
Lemanski sees it as a virtuous circle: Disabled people in Wisconsin help make something that helps disabled people in Pennsylvania.
And, of course, there’s all the exercise Packers and Steelers fans will get in Dallas on Feb. 6, waving their towels madly in the air.
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