Cedar Rapids sportswear company continues to recover from flood - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Cedar Rapids sportswear company continues to recover from flood

CEDAR RAPIDS (KWWL) - Baseball team shirts are back in production at Bimm Ridder Sportswear. A minor miracle for this apparel company that supplies souveniers to major and minor league ballparks. Floodwaters overwhelmed Cedar Rapids last year including the Bimm Ridder factory.

The floodwaters in the old factor rose six and a half feet high, submerging all of the equipment. Two giant dryers were destroyed as were the electronics in three printers. In all, a million dollars of equipment was shot.

"It was very devastating," said Bimm Ridder owner Gary Ficken. "Thank goodness for boxed wine. That was my salvation."

Gary Ficken had no flood insurance and little federal aid was available. For six months he ran Bimm Ridder from the basement of his home while he outsourced production.

"We kind of sat lined up next to each other on this wall," added Ficken.

Ficken sought advice from apparel printers who a decade earlier also had rebuilt after flooding.

"Who better to get advice from than somebody who's already lived through something like this?," said Ficken.

The company relocated to a new factory on higher ground and invested heavily in new equipment.

Bimm Ridder now carries seven times the debt it had one year ago. Ficken has a lien against his home to secure a $900,000 government loan and he's taken a 20% salary cut.

While the flood waters of Cedar Rapids have receded, Gary Ficken is still swimming upstream.

"Last thing you need is a leak that's on top of your new equipment or on top of your inventory," adds Ficken.

But Gary Ficken plans to keep plugging leaks and complete Bimm Ridder's turnaround so he and his 18 employees can keep their heads above water.

Online News Director Nate Leding

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