When a young Brian Keesee decided in 1996 to open a Crown Trophy franchise, he was fresh out of the Air Force and thought it would be easy. After three years of long hours and eating cheap frozen dinners, he says he realized his error in judgment. But, 22 years later, this business has become one of the largest awards stores in the Washington DC Metro Area, and one of the largest in the national franchise.
How It Began
Keesee started out in 1996 with only 1100 square feet of space and one part-time employee. The business grew and eventually moved to a larger location for four years, and in 2010, to their current, larger location on Route 228 in Waldorf.
“In 2015, we were quizzing customers about what else was needed. Apparel needs weren’t being met, and most were going outside the county for custom apparel,” said Keesee. So, the company entered the custom apparel market and started a new division, Apparel by Crown.
To support this new market, they purchased Something Special, a company that had operated in Charles County since the early 80s, and the owners had retired. Crown Trophy brought over their employees and expertise in screen printing, embroidery, and digitally printed apparel.
A New Name
This year, Apparel by Crown changed their apparel division name to Royal Jester Apparel. “We thought this was a more suitable brand for us since it stands out and hints at our more playful side,” said Keesee. “The Jester was common in the medieval and Renaissance areas and was someone who grabbed your attention and made you feel good. That’s what we believe custom imprinted apparel and promotional items are supposed to do.”
Together, Crown Trophy & Royal Jester Apparel have become a total source for nonprofits, schools, sports leagues, government agencies, and businesses in Charles County and the surrounding DC Metro Area.
“One of the best things about doing business in Charles County is that I have access to the metropolitan area without the higher expense and even worse traffic,” said Keesee.
“Also, I’ve been here my whole life and feel a deep connection to the community,” he said. “We’re involved in a lot of things outside the business, and it feels like a tight community.”.
New Ways to Order Online
One of Crown’s latest offerings is custom web stores. “If you’re a sports league, and you want to order spirit wear, we’ll set up a web store,” said Keesee. “But, we’ll also do that for businesses. Whether it’s uniforms or custom apparel, that’s the easiest way to do it and easier to track.”
The new Royaljesterapparel.com website includes a free designer and free web stores. An organization or business can set up a customer web store with their items (namely custom apparel), and patrons can place orders.
As a successful business owner, we asked Keesee what he would tell someone thinking about opening a business in Charles County. He said, “It’s a great place to be. Be prepared to get involved in the community. Become a community partner. That helps the community and the business.”
Photo: Owner Brian Keesee and wife, Angie