Our Story

The T-Shirt Deli Co. began its journey in November 2003. Our mission was to find a way for Chicagoans to customize shirts, baby hats, underwear, and dog tees while making gift-giving just as enjoyable as gift-receiving.

We started by scouring the city for high-quality materials such as a gleaming white deli case, rolls of perfectly bleached butcher paper, brightly-colored stickers, and open-air wicker baskets to display our freshest tees. We chose homegrown American Apparel brand shirts and stocked as many font choices and colors as there are cheeses in a New York deli.

As soon as we opened our doors, Chicago was buzzing with the news of a t-shirt store that offered a whole new flavor. Frommer's Guide to Chicago picked The T-Shirt Deli as the "best one-of-a-kind shop." We've been featured in numerous publications such as O Magazine, Travel+Leisure, Chicago Magazine, Chicago Social Magazine, Women's Wear Daily, the Chicago Tribune, Lucky, and many others.

Today, The T-Shirt Deli Co. is still thriving and offers an online store where you can design your own custom T-shirt to your heart's content. We are always plotting to expand outside of the Chicago area and into new neighborhoods, so stay tuned; maybe we'll be coming to your area soon!


We have always felt proud and privileged to have our flagship store in Bucktown for the past 20 years. The love and support of our neighbors have been overwhelming and we are grateful for it. So come in, look around, and be a part of our story. Because inside that door, every shirt is made with love, and every customer leaves happy.

Watch this video feature about us!

Ninel the T-Shirt Deli, Co. Founder

Our Founder

A journey that began far from the bustling streets of Chicago in the historic city of Odessa, Ukraine. Ninel Pompushko was born into a culture rich with tradition and storytelling. She arrived in the United States at age two, bringing the seeds of her future endeavors. Before the inception of The T-Shirt Deli, she honed her skills as an advertising copywriter. There, she learned the art of crafting messages that resonate and the importance of a narrative that connects. Her expertise in communication and her innate understanding of the human psyche became the foundation upon which The T-Shirt Deli brand was built. Ninel's vision was to create a space that wasn't just a store but a community hub, reminiscent of the warmth and camaraderie found in the Jewish delis of her heritage. A place where every custom t-shirt tells a story, every design is a conversation starter, and every customer leaves feeling like family. From the aroma of freshly printed t-shirts to the laughter shared over the counter, The T-Shirt Deli is more than just a business—it's a testament to Ninel's dream that crossed oceans and generations. She used her tremendous creativity, unlimited passion, and celebration of culture to turn that dream into a thriving business.

Janet and Nicole the T-Shirt Deli's awesome chefs

Our Head Chefs

At The T-Shirt Deli, Nicole Wilcek and Janet Luebbers shine as the dynamic duo of customer service excellence. As Head Chefs at the Deli, they embody a commitment to surpassing all expectations with every interaction. Nicole and Janet's dedication to making each encounter the highlight of our customers' days is evident in their unwavering attention to detail, talent and creativity, genuine warmth, and personalized approach. Their ability to create a welcoming and inclusive atmosphere mirrors the essence of an authentic deli experience, where every customer is not just a patron but a cherished guest. With Nicole and Janet at the helm, our customers can always expect exceptional service that goes above and beyond, leaving them with not just a custom t-shirt but a memorable and delightful experience to cherish.

About Denise

Our Nerd

Denise Plumb brings a wealth of creativity and expertise to our team. After 25 years in Los Angeles she left behind her film production career and headed to the Midwest to embark on a new chapter of her life with Ninel and their family of five tiny dogs. Ten years ago, she took over The T-Shirt Deli website and transformed it into a platform that continues to evolve and improve under her guidance. Despite her reluctance to be in the spotlight, we captured a photo she approved for this feature—a testament to her humility and preference for working behind the scenes. Known for her Midas touch, everything Denise touches turns to gold, showcasing her exceptional skills in design and beyond.

We've been featured in:

TimeOut Chicago Logo
Vanity Fair Logo
WWD Logo
Zagat Logo
Travel + Leisure Logo
The Oprah Magazine Logo
Midwest Living Logo
Apartment Therapy Logo
Chicago Magazine Logo
Frommer's Logo
Lonely Planet Logo
Chicago Tribune Logo
CNN Money Logo
Cool Hunting Logo