Johnny T-shirt to carry on in memory of owner
Although the staff at Johnny T-shirt is mourning the loss of the store’s owner, they plan to continue catering to Carolina fans just as he always did.
Charles “Chuck” Helpingstine, who opened the UNC-Chapel Hill apparel store at 128 E. Franklin St. with other partners in 1983, died Thursday after jumping off an Interstate 40 overpass north of Chapel Hill. He was 53.
“He was our boss, our cheerleader, our counselor, our movie expert, our practical joker, our life coach, our buddy, our companion and our friend,” store manager Mary Beth McIntyre said in an email. “He was truly one of a kind and he will be deeply missed.”
Helpingstine left an impact as an owner. “We will always remember his creativity, his willingness to teach, his excitement, his fairness, his kindness and his infectious sense of humor,” McIntyre said.
He left an even wider legacy through his store. Touted as a “Chapel Hill tradition” on its website, Johnny T-shirt has employed hundreds of UNC-Chapel Hill students and donated thousands of dollars to charities since its opening, McIntyre said.
The staff of about 30 employees intends to continue operating the store in a way that meets Helpingstine’s vision.
McIntyre said both his family and his Johnny T-shirt family have felt an outpouring of support since his death.
Donations can be made in Helpingstine’s name to several charities that he cared about: Volunteers for Youth of Orange County (www.volunteersforyouth.org), Durham Interfaith Hospitality Network (dihn.org), Water.org and Mental Health America of the Triangle (www.mhatriangle.org).