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Published: Thursday, 1/27/2011

Super Bowl leads to super sales as towel maker hits both sides

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, Mr. 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," Mr. McArthur said this week as he awaited final approval from the National Football League on the Packers' item. The national championship pro football game is Feb. 6 in Dallas. "We're calling it Towel Wars -- the Terrible Towel vs. the Titletown Towel."

This war has lots of winners. There's Mr. McArthur's company, which sells the towels to retailers who charge $7.99 to $9.95 to them.

Then there is Chippewa River Industries, which prints the towels under contract with Mr. McArthur. The Chippewa Falls, Wis., firm is a nonprofit that employs people with physical and mental disabilities.



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