Sportin’ Ak-Rowdy

Alex Hayes

T-shirt company uses Akron slogans for unique line

Teresa Demarco, owner of antifreeze on East Main Street, holds one of several T-shirts that make references to some Akron locations.

Credit: Beth Rankin

What started as a couple of friends making T-shirts to show off their hometown has turned into a business that is burning rubber in the city of Akron.

“There’s something about Akron. Either you love it here, or you hate it here, and even if you hate it here you still love it,” said Joy Eskesen, a co-owner of the Rubber City Clothing Company.

Eskesen, a Kent State graduate, started the company with her brother, Anders, and four of their friends.

The attitude that Akron is a city that people love or love to hate has inspired a line of T-shirts that are becoming increasingly popular in Akron and beyond.

“The main goal was to get these shirts out on people other than our friends,” Eskesen said.

Rubber City has about 10 T-shirt designs for sale, as well as three shirts made specifically for women. The shirts are all hand printed and each has logos and/or slogans about Akron, the former so-called “rubber capital of the world.”

Some of the slogans include “Akron, where the weak are killed and eaten;” “Ak- Rowdy;” and “Save Rolling Acres,” which refers to a shopping mall in Akron that has seen better days come and go.

Mike Miller, an 18-year-old Akron resident, bought an “Ak-Rowdy” T-shirt at Revival in Akron.

“I like that shirts are about Akron,” Miller said. “It’s where I’m from, so I like to show it off.”

The shirts have caught on with people beyond the Akron area. The company has sold shirts through its Web site to people in California, Chicago and even Australia.

“It is people that are probably from Akron and still have that connection to the city,” Eskesen said.

Pictures of the T-shirts are available on the Rubber City Web site at Eskesen said they can fill some special orders and that a form for special orders is available on the Web site.

Rubber City Clothing Company has shirts available in Akron at Revival, the Library Shop on Main and Don Drumm Studios and Gallery. The shirts are also available in Kent at antifreeze.

Antifreeze carries five of the Rubber City T-shirt designs.

“The shirts have been selling well,” said Teresa Demarco, owner of antifreeze. “I think people like the local flavor. It represents something around here that people are familiar with.”

Eskesen said they are thinking of T-shirt lines that incorporate more than Akron-themed wear, but she also said there is something special about keeping the company small and centered around Akron.

“I’m not looking to make a million dollars out of this,” Eskesen said. “Akron’s got the small-town feel, but it’s still a city. I pretty much know someone everywhere I go.”

Not every T-shirt idea has made it into the company’s product line.

“One of our very first ideas was ‘Kronic: Where the Blimp Flies High,’” Eskesen said. “Our friends thought it was really funny, but no one really wanted to be seen wearing it out.”

The ideas for T-shirts have come from living in Akron and from phrases caught in passing conversations.

“Sometimes I’m out, and I hear somebody say something, and I think OK, that could be a good T-shirt,’” Eskesen said. She said a lot of people have had great ideas for T-shirt designs.

Rubber City is looking for new shirt designs in a contest the company is holding online. People can submit T-shirt designs for a chance to win $50 and the first print of the shirt. Winning entries will be incorporated into the Rubber City catalog.

“The winners can get their shirts sold in all the stores we’re in,” Eskesen said.

Starting the company has been a rewarding experience, Eskesen said.

“Knowing that all of us put something out there and that people like it is the best part,” Eskesen said. “People think it’s awesome, and it’s a great idea. It’s funny because it’s not that hard to do. I’m surprised more people haven’t done it.”

Contact features reporter Alex Hayes at [email protected].