RetroDuck – a long-time downtown East Lansing business specializing in screen-printed items – recently launched East Lansing Tees, an apparel line that RetroDuck’s CEO and president Luke Hackney hopes will support other local businesses and the East Lansing community.
East Lansing Tees features a line of 15 T-shirts, many of which display retro logos associated with local bars and restaurants, including Beggar’s Banquet, Conrad’s, Cottage Inn, Crunchy’s, Dublin Square, El Azteco, Harrison Roadhouse, Los Tres Amigos, Lou and Harry’s, Rick’s, and The Riv.
The goal of East Lansing Tees is to raise money for the businesses featured on the shirts by “offering original designs that capture the spirit of living in and being a part of the East Lansing community,” said Hackney.
Five dollars from each T-shirt sale goes directly back to the business whose name is shown on the shirt. Additionally, for September, the first $1,000 in profits will be donated to Haven House, and the second $1,000 to the Firecracker Foundation.
“Originally, we conceived the site as a way to sell East Lansing bar shirts, something we’ve wanted to do for a long time, but work kept getting in the way,” Hackney said.
“The idea came back around the bend when bars closed in March, as a way to get them some income, but we, too, were shut down shortly thereafter. By the time we were allowed to re-open, a combination of being overworked and understaffed put the site on the backburner,” explained Hackney.
The difficulties for getting to project off the ground didn’t stop there. At the time of the planned launch, Facebook “community standards” prevented Hackney from listing the website’s URL on social media.
“That forced us to rethink our strategy and start from scratch on the site, but I am glad it happened,” said Hackney. “It allowed me to consider helping other businesses in town as well.”
The site officially launched over Labor Day weekend with many retro designs making a rare reappearance. “One’s definition of the term ‘vintage’ may vary, but all of the shirts so far are directly from our archives,” Hackney said.
“All of the shirts we launched the site with are from businesses we’ve been working with for many years. Some of the designs are a lot older than we are,” he noted.
Hackney hopes to continue this trend of giving back in the future, adding more T-shirts, holding a design contest, and creating social media accounts to spread the word.
“We ran a contest at RetroDuck a few months ago for East Lansing designs, [and] we will be launching the winner, East Lansing resident Austin Pabian of a Fire Water Apparel, this week. We hope the proceeds can go directly to the downtown somehow. We are currently trying to figure out the best way to make that happen,” Hackney explained.
Support of local businesses is important to Hackney and others associated with RetroDuck. The company is just about as East Lansing as it gets.
What began as a small T-shirt company in 2003 – operated by Luke Hackney and Sean Maday out of Maday’s MSU dorm room – has flourished. The idea initially began with selling vintage ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s iron-ons and expanded to include original design screen-printed items.
Today, nearly 18 years later, the East Lansing screen printing business has become a staple in the community. ELi has long used RetroDuck to print its shirts.
“It would be great if we could generate a healthy amount of supplemental income for the businesses that are allowing us to use their brand, especially as we all navigate these unprecedented times,” said Hackney.