tbo: Tampa Bay Online.
Thursday, Jun 22, 2017

Successful family retail company has humble roots in Zephyrhills

ZEPHYRHILLS - Gregg Hilferding stood before the Zephyrhills Historical Association on the evening of Jan. 3 and recounted the history of a Zephyrhills success story — his company, ClassB, an official distributor of Boy Scouts gear. Hilferding was doing what he has done for many years — he was being the liaison between the Hilferding family and the community. Not that other family members were never involved, but from the time he was a child, the company vice president, Eagle Scout, Army veteran and, now at 32, the youngest child of Robert and Terry Hilferding, has often been the more visible face of the family. Gregg Hilferding's own history is uniquely tied to Zephyrhills, the company and the Boy Scouts. Perhaps the watershed moment for Hilferding was his brother Eric's decision to become a Boy Scout and earn his printing merit badge. The boys' mother, Terry, had done some screen printing in college, so she decided to help him print some shirts. People saw them — and liked them — and asked whether she would do some for them.
The printing operations were carried out in the home, and then the garage, and then in a storefront in Hillvest Center on Allen Road. It grew to two storefronts, then three, then moved to an old bank building on Fifth Avenue. The successful brick-and-mortar business later became an online success. The business expanded to include trophies, school jackets and a number of other services. Over the years, the company name was changed from Shirts & Caps to GetYourShirts.com to ClassB. ClassB, which represents the name of the Boy Scout field uniform, became an official distributor of Scouting gear in 2006. Moving from a Scouting merit badge project to a licensed company was not orchestrated. "It's incredible that it worked out that way," Hilferding said. "There was no plan for that whatsoever." It was in this whirlwind of business success and growth that Hilferding grew up. Showing a proclivity toward computers and graphic design, he began designing logos for the company when he was young. The family kept it quiet that the imaginative designs were coming from the skilled fingers of a child. He tells the story of a customer who kept coming in the store to meet the college student who was responsible for such designs. They finally had to tell him it was an elementary school student. Following in his brothers footsteps, Hilferding became a Tiger Cub Scout when he was 7. Rising through the ranks and having earned more than 50 merit badges, Hilferding decided to accept the challenge of becoming an Eagle Scout. As his Eagle Scout project, Hilferding decided to raise money to buy an American flag for Time Square in downtown Zephyrhills. Hilferding spoke to civic groups and businesses to raise donations. He designed a bumper sticker and provided small flags for people who donated to the project. In 1997, the flag was flown, and Hilferding became an Eagle Scout. In 1998, he graduated from Zephyrhills High School and decided to hike the Appalachian Trail. He was a member of the Main Street Zephyrhills Board of Directors at the time, and rather than just hike the trail, he decided to make it a fundraiser for the Historic Preservation Fund. He got donors to back his hike, and he completed the 2,160.3-mile trip. He experienced a knee injury and a bout with hypothermia but was unwilling to quit. While he hiked the trail, his dad traveled by road, bringing his gear, water and supplies. Father and son also spent several nights in motels. When he returned from a 2003 military stint in Iraq, he assumed the position of vice president of the family business. Eric Hilferding is the CEO, a position he has held since 1994. "He has been the head of the company since he was 24 years old," Hilferding says proudly. His sister, Carin, lives in South Carolina, where she owns a screen printing company. Mom and Dad now work for their sons. ClassB is now the biggest licensee for the Boy Scouts. It also is licensed for the 4H Council, the Kiwanis and Key clubs and the American Legion. Hilferding is proud that the business's customers are all nonprofit organizations trying to build strong youths. "We get to say we have the best customers in the country," he said. The company has also twice been named one of the 50 fastest growing companies in Tampa area by the Tampa Bay Business Journal. "I am fortunate to work for a company I helped build," he said. Hilferding noted that the company has been in business for 30 years, nearly one-third of the city of Zephyrhills' existence. But soon the company's time in Zephyrhills will be coming to an end. By the end of this month, the Zephyrhills-born company will have vacated its Fifth Avenue location, moving its corporate headquarters to Tampa. Though the company's moving away, Hilferding said he will keep his ties to Zephyrhills and cherish the community that shaped his life and future.
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