Say It In Short Sleeves
Local T-shirt designers take a DIY approach to small business and promoting the Glass City
Despite rankings listing Toledo as a miserable, poor, unhealthy or brain-drained city, pride in Toledo is on the rise. Maybe that pride sustains us, or maybe the boost in morale coincides with the city’s revitalization. Either way, spend time in Toledo and you’ll feel the pride in our beloved city. It’s evident in the number of new nightlife opportunities and restaurant options downtown, and also noticeably in the growing phenomena of people repping Toledo hard with their fashion.
Local busineses Devicious, Reddish Printing, Glass Wear and Jüpmode are some of the T-Shirt printing companies in the city not only producing stylish urban designs, but also cultivating proud feelings in a city on the brink of resurgence. These companies share in the spirit of American entrepreneurship while proudly promoting their Toledo roots (and TCP). TCP talked to these young entrepreneurs to find out what it takes to jump start a small business and the community that supports it.
Micah Lindenberger and Matt Taylor are two graphic designers who started Devicious as a means to let their creativity flourish in an area they both really loved and knew had a niche market — urban indie t-shirts. Their graphic tees are design-focused and incorporate pop art with patterns, geometric shapes and nature themes to create a style that is organic yet hip and modern.
“We’re constantly drawing,” says Lindenberger. “We’re constantly turning in T-shirt ideas to each other and have many different designs.”
The two screen print all of their shirts themselves in the shop at Dynamic Design, a company on Main Street in the East side where both were employed as designers. Devicious items have been featured in some local retail stores, and the company has
enjoyed a steady stream of online sales. Mainly, the guys can be seen selling their wares at different art events around town.
“We are asked to go to a lot of events, so we do a lot of local stuff. Lately, we’ve done a lot of events in collaboration with the Art Supply Depo.”
Lindenberger and Taylor have expanded into screen printing tote bags and coozies while also designing stickers and pins. One of the coolest designs they use on stickers and pins is a graphic of the word “Ohio” with the letters “H” & “I” in the shape of the state.
Shop Devicious’s entire online store featuring products from tote bags to graphic tees & hoodies and also follow their blog at www.devicious.com.
Max Reddish ventured into screen printing after years trying to figure out what to do professionally. His family owns a sporting goods company, Reddish Contact Sports Supply on the East Side, which offered custom screen printing, but was not doing the printing in house. He decided to create a side business, Reddish Printing, and has never looked back.
“I invested a lot of money right off the bat into the company.” says Reddish. “I was working 12 to 15 hour days in a factory, which sucks, building window screens by hand. It was either this or bust.”
A bulk of his business is custom designs for local recreational sports teams, company promotions and event shirts. Max began printing shirts with slogans promoting Toledo to build his company and the move really paid off.
“The idea for the Toledo shirts, besides marketing my business and promoting Toledo, has always been going out to the Farmer’s Market, going out to the Art Walk, going out to all the festivals and drawing people to them,” says Reddish. “If I’m on Facebook and tell people I’ll be here selling T-shirts, it sometimes draws people to the event who normally wouldn’t be there.”
His “BORING PEOPLE HATE TOLEDO” shirt has really taken off, a popular must-have for downtown’s hipster set.
“The best way to promote and build your business,” Reddish says, “is to promote and build your community too.”
Check out Max’s designs at www.reddishprinting.com or call 419-290-5384 to make an appointment for custom shirts. Reddish Printing, 410 Main St.
“Excuse the mess,” John Amato says upon entering his warehouse/printshop near downtown Perrysburg. Amato owns and operates Jüpmode, a full-service custom screen printing business. Virtually gutted, there was something humbling about a space where actual work is being done and furnished with items salvaged from around town, like the work tables Amato proudly points out he picked up for $2 at the St. Francis DePaul building auction downtown.
“I was afraid to be the first one to bid [on the tables] when they started off at $5. Nobody was bidding. When they restarted the bid at $2, I raised my hand.”
There are shelves stockpiled with shirts, some waiting to be printed and some ready to be sold surrounding a silk screen press, dryer oven and those tables, ready for packaging assembly. Jüpmode was started seven years ago on an idea Amato got while watching an Ohio State football game with his dad and brothers. He said someone should make a t-shirt to replicate former OSU head coach Jim Tressel’s famous sweater vest style, like the novelty tuxedo shirt. His father said, “You do it.” From there Amato bought the licensing from OSU to produce the shirts and had them made overseas. He got more ideas and saw the potential with collegiate licensing, so he expanded to get the license for the University of Toledo, Bowling Green State University and the University of Michigan. After observing the process of silk screening, Amato decided to invest in his own equipment and print shirts himself. Now he could use his creativity to explore ideas outside of college sports.
One day Amato and a friend were going over ideas for shirts and he loved the saying “You’ll Do Better in Toledo” (from an old sign hanging up at Wesley’s Bar on Adams St.). They decided to print them and see the response. “It took a while to catch on. I started selling them at the Old West End Festival and people started talking about them,” says Amato. “It really has succeeded past any expectation I had for it. I think it’s because you see this movement of Toledo pride right now.”
Jüpmode acquired the licensing for historic Toledo products and companies like Tony Packo’s, Tiedtke’s and Buckeye Beer, and followed the “You’ll Do Better in Toledo” shirt with the equally powerful “We’re Strong for Toledo” shirt.
“I have an emphasis on the history of Toledo,” he says. “I think we have a really great history, and it’s a reminder of what we were and what we are striving to be. We may not be the manufacturing center we once were, but we still have those high expectations. I think right now what we are seeing is elevating our standards for what we want in the city of Toledo. We are setting the new standard with a lot of the young people here, and the Toledo pride shirts reflect that.”
Browse through pages of unique collegiate apparel and historic Toledo T-shirts at www.jupmode.com, or call John for custom prints at 419-356-7024.
Tim Marshall and Brandon Erickson approach production for their T-shirt company, Glass Wear, differently from the other guys. Instead of silk screen printing, Glass Wear uses hot peel ink transfers for their designs. Marshall and Erickson will meet at a local coffeehouse to brainstorm designs and come up with a sketch. They then plug the sketch into design software on a computer and send the design to a company in Illinois, which prints the ink transfers. This allows Tim and Brandon the freedom to heat and print the shirts on the spot with an ink press. It allows more flexibility for them and the customer when out live printing at events. Customers can decide the color and style of shirt and design and have it made in minutes.
“Customers get to help design the shirt,” says Tim, “which gives the shirts more personality.” Glass Wear’s designs are almost exclusively pro-Toledo designs. One features the silhouette of Downtown Toledo’s skyline with roots growing out of the bottom. Another is a play on the famous “I [heart] NY” shirt and replaces the heart with the shape of Ohio and reads “I [shape of Ohio] 419.” Glass Wear also goes a step further to promote Toledo by donating a $1.50 of every shirt sold to a community partner in need, helping people of the area too, as one of their shirts reads “RISE UP TOLEDO!”
Find out where Tim and Brandon will be printing next at www.facebook.com/GlassWear or call 419-450-9982 for more information.