By Erin Crowell
Weve all seen the Life is Good brand t-shirts and other
paraphernalia with the crudely drawn, smiling stick man (a.k.a.
Jack) doing something outdoorsyish, the drawing accompanied by a
clever saying usually a play on words.
Youll see the same similarities on the merchandise at Roth Shirt
Company, located on Front Street, in downtown Traverse City. However,
these crude drawings with their playful slogans offer a local twist to
the good life theme, and many peoplenear and afarare digging the
crazy-haired cartoon man.
Move over, Jake.
Sure, the drawings on Roth Shirts hats, ts and sweatshirts are crude
but owner/designer Ed Roth says it works.
I have zero background in art, he says, but, people seem to like
Roth also has zero background in the retail business.
After spending several years in the real estate investments market, he
became bored and because of the collapse in the real estate market
pursued a new career.
Im the type of person that just dives in and learns as I go, he says.
Roth sat down one day and drew six designs for some t-shirts, using a
cartoon face as the main character that a friend had scribbled down
The story is kind of long, explains Roth. But, basically we had a
musician friend who, one day, drew this crazy-looking face and said
thats who I am now.
In the spirit of The Artist Formerly Known as Prince, symbol, Roths
musician friend was then The Artist Formerly Known as Dark
Strangely, using the new cartoon face as his identity (think
Wilson the volleyball in the 2000 film Cast Away).
We put it on a couple cassette tapes and what-not, but it didnt last
long, explains Roth.
However, the cartoon face has since lived on.
With just a handful of t-shirt designs, Roth took his new brand to the
2008 Alanson Riverfest near Petoskey where the shirts were well
received by patrons.
I had a guy come up, point to a shirt and say, I want that, and
then pointed up to the shirt hanging behind me and said, but, in that
color. I explained to him that I had worn that particular shirt
nearly 10 times already, but he didnt care, Roth laughs.
From then on, Roth knew his designs were unique.
Today, Roth Shirt Company offers over 30 designs on short and long
sleeve shirts, hats and sweatshirts, each made with 100% ringspun
cotton. Their website boasts, If its not a Roth, its just cloth.
The businesss most popular shirt is their wine critic design in
celebration of the local wineries, which features a wine glass and the
staple Wilson-like face.
Traverse City resident Katie Kazarian was recently in the store
picking up the wine critic shirt for a friend.
This is shirt number three, Kazarian explains of her latest
purchase. Theyre really soft, wash great you really cant go wrong.
Kazarian first bought a Roth Shirt for her husband, a t-shirt with the
picture of a small motorboat with the words pleasure craft printed
Store manager Scott Wikle, who performs in Traverse Citys Lone
Fugitive Band, says Roth Shirts offer something the Life is Good brand
Its local, he says. You can go all over the country and find Life
is Good t-shirts, but theyre not unique to an area. People like (Roth
Shirts) because you cant find them everywhere.
Other popular designs include the beer critic same design as the
wine critic, but with a pint glass; heaven on earth which features
an illustration of earth, with nothing but the state of Michigan as
visible land; the Dunworkin road sign design, with some scribbles of
a beer bottle and shotglass; and the puck and hockey stick drawing
that says stick it, for the hockey fan who, as Roth puts it, always
has an attitude anyway.
Prices range from $15 for youth sizes to $33 for sweatshirts, and come
in a variety of colors and styles.
While most customers have been from out-of-town during the festival
season, Roth says he is generating a considerable amount of business
from the local community.
People embrace locally made things things that have some soul, Roth says.
Roth Shirt Company is located at 155 E. Front St. in downtown Traverse
City. Hours are Monday-Thursday, 10 a.m.-6 p.m.; open til 8 p.m.
Fridays & Saturdays; Sunday, noon-5 p.m. Check their website for
online sales and more at www.rothshirtco.com.