Companies all over the city are capitalizing on the Oklahoma City Thunder's NBA playoffs run, but one retailer isn't buying in.
Tree & Leaf Clothing sold out of Thunder gear when the second round of playoffs started, and it hasn't printed more since, co-owner Dustin Gilpin said.
“I can look at our rack now, and I think I've got six or seven shirts on there,” he said, adding that those shirts are in hard-to-sell sizes such as extra-extra-large.
Gilpin said the store, at 8405 N Rockwell Ave., certainly has the demand for more of its unofficial Thunder parody shirts, which recently passed an NBA check for copyright or trademark infringement. He said he probably turned away 150 to 200 people Saturday.
But he wants the shirts to mean something to the people who already have them.
“There's part of me that's like, ‘We could be making a lot of money,' but the other part is we have to retain our integrity as a small business,” he said.
Gilpin said the customers who are coming in now are not the usual people who visit the store. He doesn't want to call them “bandwagon fans,” but he refuses to be a bandwagon retailer.
The people who shop at Tree & Leaf have a sense of pride about the originality of the shirts, which includes a James Harden-inspired design with a printed-on beard that can be held up to the wearer's face, Gilpin said.
“People see them on the street and they're like, ‘Dang, I tried to get that shirt,'” he said.
The company, which has a partnership with DailyThunder.com, offers four to five designs each season, Gilpin said.
Tree & Leaf printed a special shirt for the playoffs, but when that was gone, the shop stopped printing.
Gilpin said he and co-owner John Milner decided it wasn't their style to make a large number of shirts if that meant sacrificing quality.
Company on overdrive
Meanwhile, screen printers and retailers across the city are scrambling to meet demand for their products.
USA Screen Printing and Embroidery sees at least 1,000 customers a day, general manager Lateria Allen said.
The company, which makes and sells NBA-licensed Thunder gear, had to open a second location in March and hire 10 more employees.
“It's been a lot of man-hours,” Allen said.
USA Screen Printing also prints Thunder apparel to be sold at Chesapeake Energy Arena, so the printing operation is in overdrive, she said.
“We've been printing all night just to try to get it out,” Allen said.
And almost as soon as the gear comes out, it's bought up. Allen said she can't keep the shelves stocked.
For Gilpin's part, he said Tree & Leaf will offer one last shirt for the season — if the Thunder wins the championship.
That shirt has already been designed, and about 250 to 500 would be made, he said.
Even though he knows demand for those shirts will be high, he said each one would still cost the usual $20.
“We have loyal customers,” Gilpin said. “If we were to raise our prices because of this circumstance, my loyal customers would be disappointed in us, I think.”