LANSING, Mich. — Around 18 years ago, a T-Shirt company called RetroDuck emerged onto the East Lansing scene right across the street from the Union off of Grand River Avenue. President of RetroDuck Luke Allen Hackney says that his team has since printed a plethora of T-Shirts for many of the businesses in his area, including Rick's, The Riv, Beggar's Banquet and Crunchy's. Now, he has accumulated a vast portfolio of these since archived designs.
"So, we reached out to (the businesses) and we asked them if they'd be interested in selling their shirts on our website," Hackney says, "mostly the shirts that either their employees would wear, or they were for special events, or they were for fun, or they were shirts that they were selling themselves..."
Hackney says the idea to revive the retro merch came to him after seeing many of these businesses shut down amidst the pandemic. He was thinking of another way to generate income for them, when he remembered his archive.
"We just started throwing up shirts from various eras...Beggar's is a good example of them giving us art, you know, 18 years ago that might have been like 15-20 years old at the time. So, yeah, we just started selling shirts for the different restaurants and bars and giving them a cut of each shirt sold."
The website is eastlansingtees.com, and on this site are designs from some of the area's favorite names, including the East Lansing Cottage Inn.
"(Cottage Inn) is the first non-bar that popped into my head. George Hoover who owns that location has always been really good to us and I just asked him and that was a complicated one because they're technically a franchise, but he reached out to corporate and they thought it was a great idea and so we got really lucky on that..." Hackney smiles.
Hackney says that this is just the beginning for eastlansingtees.com, as he and his team are already partnering with new businesses for the site.
"...we're talking to a lot of restaurants and bars that we haven't done business with in the past and getting their items up and then we're also talking to a few stores and shops in this area as well because we would like to expand to that as well."
Just in time for the surge of holiday shopping, Hackney says he and his team are going to make a push and appeal to as many Spartan alumni as possible.
"Hopefully it picks up. Hopefully alumni start really looking at it. We're going to try to push a lot of big sales for the holidays and hopefully we can get (these businesses) some money," Hackney says.
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