It all started 25 years ago in Elmira Heights NY in 1994. I was fresh out of college and had a passion for minitrucks and pretty much anything that burned gas. I also had a passion for art. I had studied Advertising Design And Production At Mohawk Valley Community College in Utica NY where i received my Associates Degree. I then transferred to Elmira College where i studied Art Education and received my Bachelors degree.
I was always pushing the envelope with shirt sayings. I made beer money in college air brushing t-shirts for friends. The more edgier the slogan the better they would sell. So during the spring of 1994 Drop Em wear was created. I made a cheesy logo. I had thought the name was cool and marketable. There was nobody else selling shirts at the time. Not a single person. Everyone thought my idea was crazy because it was a niche market. I didn't have any big money backers, it was just me funding, designing and selling the brand.
In 1994 the internet was just becoming a thing. Oh the sounds of dial up still give me nightmares. I purchased the domain and sat on it because i had no idea how to create a site. I did however create a lame catalog, an very informative one, complete with black and white drawings and an order form that i hoped people would entrust me and use it to order shirts. Well it worked. I hit the show scene handing out catalogs to everyone i seen. we attended the Carlisle All Truck Nationals in June of 1994. We had 72 shirts with us. Took us forever to sell the shirts in between drinking beer and looking at all the cool trucks Carlisle had to offer. I sold the shirts in the campground. I didn't have enough money nor product to set up a booth. Slung em out the back of my 88 Mazda pickup. Well it was official Drop Em Wear Clothing was born.
From 1994-1998 I had sold shirts over the phone, through the mail and at local shows. in 1998 i decided to leave NY for a bigger and better future and less snow. I relocated to Winston Salem NC. It was about the midway point for travel between NY and FL. I attended shows like BOOGER BASH, TEXAS HEAT WAVE and SLAMFEST. When i moved to NC i tried to get a teaching job and the starting pay was $18,000 smh. I threw that idea in the trash and started working at a local stereo shop installing car stereos. This job kept me in the mix of things and was flexible enough to allow me to travel to shows. Working all week, managing Drop Em Wear at night and traveling to shows on weekends and driving all night to get back to work early on monday.
In 2000 i had sold my bagged Astro van and dumped my money into a new Ford crew cab dually and purchased a 38 foot enclosed trailer from Trailers Of the East Coast in Mocksville NC. I dropped the trailer off to my buddy Andy Biggers to have him decal it up. 2000 was the first time we used our skull logo in which you see today.
In 2000 i took the plunge and went full time, moved Drop Em wear into an industrial warehouse and tried to make the business go. I didn't have another job to fall back on. If it rained at the show it was money lost. I was in the same boat as the promoter. I had gas, hotel, employees and food to pay so i could get to the show to make money. I still wasn't big enough to take a large financial hit and still survive. I didnt have the luxury to come back to my weekday job on monday and make money to pay my bills. It was do or die time. I was using my credit card with a $3500 limit. maxing it out and paying it off over and over again each month. Banks wouldn't give me a loan for the business. They kept telling me i was too much of a risk. By this time I was hitting 35-40 shows a year ranging from Texas to Florida to Connecticut. I was putting some miles on the Ford for sure hitting the hottest shows in the country. Over the next 5 years the business exploded. I couldn't even tell you the color of my house because i would leave the house before the sun came up and i wouldn't be back to the house till midnight or 1am. Day in day out for months on end just hammering out business deals. Vacations and days off were not an option. I just kept creating shirts to sell. At this time we had to be up to at least 180 shirt created win an inventory of a good 75 designs in the rotation.
The company was growing leaps and bounds. We had 4 phone lines and a bunch of employees taking calls and fulfilling orders. Our gross annual sales were over a million. Not too bad for a kid who created this in his apartment kitchen. Finally people were starting to recognize who we were. Show promoters were requesting our presence at shows. We gave away 10's of thousands of shirts out of our air powered t-shirt cannon. It was fun to do, the show goers loved it and who doesn't like a FREE shirt shot our of a gun using 3500 psi lol. There wasn't a facebook or social media at the time. If you wanted to see the hottest trucks and get the hottest gear then you had to get your behind out to a show.
In 2015 we purchased a new vending trailer from Trailers Of The East Coast. The constant involvement of putting up and easy up and tearing it down 2-3 times a weekend for 20 years had taken a toll on me. My shoulders, back and wrists were in pain. I was slowly becoming a cripple from over working. This trailer was going to help efficiency at the shows as well as create a bigger presence in the automotive scene. We teamed up with our good friends at MTX and they helped us out with a stereo/pa system complete with mixer and subwoofer. The four LCD flat screen TVs allowed us to play the hottest DVDs all day in a continuous loop. The trailer was wrapped in the latest Drop Em wear livery enticing many fans to snap pics of their rides with our gigantic logo in the background. This beast was finally a mobile marketing piece of equipment.
From this point till now it has just been selling and creating shirts day in and day out proving the nay sayers wrong. I had successfully created something from nothing. What i created has way more than a monetary value. Drop Em Wear Clothing had become a cornerstone on the car show scene and a household name. We did it without using celebrities, no large ad campaigns and NO corporate help. We did it with good old fashioned gorilla marketing getting in the trenches and meeting our customers face to face.
In 2017 we decided to embroidered all our own goods in house. We purchased a new embroidery machine from Barudan. We now offer this service to outside businesses as well. If you need anything embroidered please feel free to give us a call.
In 2018 we took the plunge and purchased new equipment to keep all the screen printing in house. This allowed us so much more artistic freedom with our designs. By us designing the shirts, and printing the shirts we have become 100% self sufficient. We could effectively create a shirt in the am, throw it to the site, print film, make the screens, sell shirts, print the shirts and ship the shirts in the same day. Heck they may even still be warm when you get em. lol.
in 2019 we had the trailer re wrapped with NEW Drop Em Wear Livery and for the first time in 25 years the skulls were not on the bottom of the trailer. The guys and gals at Illusions Wraps in VA helped us our with the monumental task. These guys knocked it out of the park. Even adding names and dates of deceased fans/customers/family and friends scattered throughout the wrap. Its our way of saying thanks. We have become very close with our customers. They come to our booth to spend their hard earned money, say hey, get a handshake or a hug and get great customer service along with a great product.
Its been a crazy 25 years for sure. Seen a lot of competition come and go but luckily we have our roots buried deep with all the help from our loyal fans.
here's to another 25 ~ john and jen beebe
Do you think you have what it takes to do what we did or do what we do? the countless hours on the road, time away from family, working all week just to hop in the truck on Friday to go work some more.