As Shane Mastera grew up in Murray, Kentucky, his mother was designing and crafting a future that would take them to places they never imagined. Judith, an art major, had been selling jewelry and even owned a shoe store at one point. Then, she began designing clothes on a whim, naming her clothing line Shane Lee after her two sons.
"This was around 1986," says Shane. "I was still in high school. She had one seamstress. When I was 19, I went on the road selling what she had created. I would go to any store that would talk to me. I went to a trade show in Memphis, then I went to shows in Chicago, New York, Dallas, Atlanta, and Las Vegas. So for the next twenty years, we went from place to place."
And the hard work paid off. "The first big catalog we got was AB Lambdin," says Shane. "We kept getting interest, picking up mail order businesses, and we're now in just about every major catalog. We also have up to 200 hospital gift shops that carry our products, we do a lot of business with Zulily, and we sell in about 40 casinos. And then about nine years ago, Disney walked in to our booth at Atlanta. We hit it off with the creative director, and now we have about fourteen different products with them. We started with a princess product for them. That really hit us on all cylinders. Frozen was huge. And now Star Wars has really upped the ante as far as production. We have two different Star Wars items with them."
One of the products, which Disney uses across multiple franchises, is a blanket/pillow. "It's a blanket that rolls up and tucks into a pocket and makes a pillow. We wanted something that the kids could carry with them. We came up with that together, creating samples until we had the final product. And they really like it because it is made in the U.S.A."
By then, Judith had branched out beyond clothing to add pillow cases, baby blankets, baby sets, knit lines, scarves, and more. Shane Lee had grown into a major manufacturer in downtown Murray, adding employees to keep up with the increased demand. Ten years ago, Shane opened Shane Lee Boutique on Market Square in Paducah where he manages the shop and Shane Lee's worldwide sales and marketing efforts.
"When I first came to this spot in Paducah, it was just supposed to be for a week," says Shane. "We have a lot of fabric left over, so we sell it during the quilt show. I asked Louis Kirchhoff about getting this spot for that week, and he suggested I try it for a month and see what I thought. So I opened a store! And I'm still here. Of course you're not right there in a place like L.A. or New York where you have factories and resources at your disposal, but we do get the best of both worlds. I get to travel! And I have a son, and we're in this great environment."
Judith and Shane expect Shane Lee to continue to grow. Each year, they produce several new lines, and Shane shows their latest products at trade shows across the country. Yet even in the middle of the whirlwind, he is reminded of where he came from. "Women come up to me and will tell me things like, 'I bought my first pair of high heels from your mother.' She would go to New York to buy the shoes. That was different for Murray at the time. I grew up in that environment. And when I started selling at 19, it just felt right doing it. I think I was born to do it.
"I was recently going through old photos, and I saw how much we've evolved. We have tourists come in here now and recognize the label. And people from Paducah see it other places. The Rhodes were visiting their son out of state, and they went into a shop to buy their granddaughter a jacket. When they looked at the label, there was Shane Lee."
More information can be found at myshanelee.com.