Kyle Babbitt displays one of the cycling items that is shipped out of a warehouse in Webb City.

An old manufacturing building is now part of e-commerce

Clothing for cyclists is now stored and shipped out of the south half of the old Elder shirt factory at 107 W. Second Street. The north side of the building, facing First Street, has been converted to apartments.

Kyle Babbitt has organized cycling shirts and shorts so they’re easy to find when ordered by customers online.

Could the city leaders who recruited a shirt factory here to boost employment as the mining activity was dwindling have dreamed the future of that building would be e-commerce?

Where scores of women once earned wages based on the number of pieces they sewed, two people now receive orders over the internet, pick the products from shelves, put them in bags and ship them to customers around the nation and to foreign countries.

Part of the former Elder Manufacturing building, at 107 W. Second St., has recently been renovated to warehouse cycling apparel.

Omni Brands, a company owned by Toby Teeter, of Carl Junction, has the clothing made to its specifications overseas and sells it under three brand names, each with their own website, Urban Cycling Apparel, Ozark Cycling Apparel and Kona Tri Apparel.

Teeter had a showroom and some warehouse space in Joplin, but as sales increased, he needed a larger space.

Kyle Babbitt, of Webb City, made the move with the company from Joplin to the warehouse here and has been busy organizing the items to fulfill orders efficiently. “We have triple the space here,” he says.

There’s still a lot to do, he admits, but at least “we can receive an order and get it shipped the same day.”

He and MaKenna Bettis, a part-time employee, are actually shipping out up to 60 orders a day that they receive from the company’s three websites.

That’s not counting the bulk shipments they make to Amazon and other third-party sellers as the inventories of items for sale there run low.

MaKenna Bettis checks for new orders coming in from the company’s websites while Kyle Babbitt bags items for shipping.

Urban Cycling, in particular, with items under $100, is one of the top selling brands in its category on Amazon, says Babbitt.

“My love of cycling started when I was young,” he says. “Some of my best memories are from riding BMX.”

And then he got to know Teeter through cycling.

One of the benefits of the job is getting to test the clothing as samples come in from the suppliers. Babbitt and Bettis ride with the products, as does Teeter, who Babbitt says is “meticulous down to the stitching.”

“We won’t know how good the product is until we try it ourselves,” says Babbitt. “We see how it feels and fits and if it needs adjustments.”

Although the business is 100% e-commerce, there’s an area in the warehouse where items are on display. “We invite local customers to pop in,” Babbitt says. “We welcome them.”

Besides the order fulfillment area, the renovated building has unique spaces that don’t have specified purposes yet.

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