A while back I saw a facecrack post about a company that was making retro Peoria t-shirts with logos from iconic Peoria businesses like The Peoria Drive-in and Hunts. This intrigued me so I found out the name of the company, which is called Bygone Brand and saw the shirts on their website. I contacted the co-owner of Bygone Brand, Keith Watson and he said they were in talks with one of my favorite Peoria stores, Urban Artifacts to carry the t-shirts locally.
I have to be honest, I kind of forgot about the whole thing until last week when I noticed an article about Bygone Brands in the PJ Star by Business Editor and MBIP pal, Steve Tarter. And within the article it said that the t-shirts are now in stock at Urban Artifacts. So let’s not waste any more time typing in this stupid introduction, let’s make tracks and go check them out!
The first thing you notice as you walk up to Urban Artifacts is the Sputnik on the roof of the building. I love it and was happy it made the PJ Star’s 101 Things That Play In Peoria list!
Okay, the front door is open, let’s go inside and look for the Bygone Peoria retro t-shirts!
I love walking into this store, there’s so many treasures to be found! Let’s take a little tour before we look for the t-shirts.
Check out this vintage Schlitz cooler. What’s made Milwaukee famous, has made a loser out of me!
What a classic Falstaff beer sign! Love it!
This is art from Margaret Walker, I love her work and I have several pieces of her art here at MBIP World Headquarters, so there!
You can get some junior Big Boy dolls here at Urban Artifacts or if you’re really into this Big Boy...
You can get the real deal by purchasing this Big Boy! Warning, the price tag is 6500 Big Boy bucks! And check out the Sandy’s Tartan Queen behind him! I love looking around in here!
Let’s take a gander at the adjoining room off to the side of the main room.
What a cool Pabst neon sign hanging up near the ceiling!
There’s so many little treasures to be found in here, I could spend a week looking around and not discover them all!
Check out the used record section with an ultra-cool Cheap Trick Poster on top!
Speaking of Cheap Trick, look at this Cheap Truck!
Okay, as we wind our way to the back of the store, we discover what we came to check out, the Bygone Brand’s retro Peoria t-shirts! The Hunts Drive-In is a classic. So cool!
The Peoria Drive-In Theatre is equally as cool and reminds me of when we used to climb the fence and sit in Kiddy-land and watch the movies while smoking cigarettes while sitting on the swing-stand in there. I love these t-shirts!
Here’s all four designs: Hunts, Peoria Drive-In, Sully’s Pub and Szolds. Nice! And there's more to come! Check out the interview below.
Interview With Keith And Amy Watson
I was curious about the brains behind these unique t-shirts, so I got hold of the creators of these shirts and the founders of the company, Bygone Brand, Keith and Amy Watson and asked them a few questions and they were polite enough to toss me back some answers. Below is the interview that resulted from this back and forth volley of questions and answers.
Tell me a little bit about the history of Bygone Brand.
Bygone Brand was founded in Rockford, Illinois in 2013. The first Rockford Line of t-shirts featured beloved brands from Rockford’s past. Since Amy is originally from St. Louis, we started work on creating nostalgic designs she remembered and loved growing up. We were approached by the Lost Madison Facebook group to see if we would be interested in doing the same for Madison. The Madison Line was launched in Fall 2013 to immediate success. As you know, we recently added Peoria to the line-up. The St. Louis Line finally came out in the Spring of 2014, with the Chicago Line soon following in the Summer. Plans are always in the works to bring out new designs from our current city lines and also adding new cities down the road.
Where did the idea for Bygone Brand come from?
The idea sparked with the words “MADE IN ROCKFORD, IL” stamped on the back of a well-worn Midgetoy die-cast toy car that Keith had since a child. He thought about the Rockford companies that weren't around anymore, but people used to love. Later that summer, we took a trip to upper Michigan and found an old Beef-A-Roo that hadn't changed since the 1970's. It still had the old graphics Keith remembered from childhood that were long gone in the Rockford area chain. We bought a t-shirt with the old Beef-A-Roo Cowboy, but the quality and graphics were pretty poor.
Some big box stores carry retro/vintage t-shirts of big corporate brands. There are also local t-shirt companies that create community-centric designs & sayings. We love them all, but what we really wanted was a t-shirt with the local aspect and the retro/vintage logo of the cool places we remember growing up. With those thoughts in mind, Bygone Brand was born.
How do you choose the cities to do t-shirts from and how did you come about picking Peoria?
We start with what we know and love. I'm from Rockford, Amy is from St. Louis and we both lived in Peoria from 1989-1994. I actually spent a lot of time in Peoria growing up as well and had a good group of friends there. It really helps to have a personal connection.
To expand though, we look to find people from other cities that are passionate about what they grew up with that is no longer there.
Are you looking for more retail outlets in Peoria?
We have talked to few other places, but being new to a city we're starting from scratch again. The shirts are now available at Urban Artifacts, as you know and at the Peoria International Airport Gift Shop. A buzz started getting out there and they called us up out the blue.
How did you choose the four businesses that are featured on the Peoria line of t-shirts?
I've wanted to do a Sully's t-shirt since we started Bygone Brand. Let's say we spent some time there during our Bradley days. Other than that we did research from Facebook pages, blogs, Peoria friends, etc. to come up with a list candidates. Our criteria is that it must be 1) local & out-of business with an expired Trademark 2) Good design for a t-shirt 3) Fondly remembered & memorable.
We came up with 7 or 8 different initial places to whittle down to the first four. We felt these were the strongest to start with, but in no means the last.
Have you ever been to Peoria, if so, what do you think of our town?
Both Amy and I love Peoria. We lived there in the early 90's and it became a second home for both of us. My sister and her family live in the area so we get back quite often. Every time we drive around to look at the places we used to frequent. I don't miss the "Peoria smell" though! Just kidding!
Are you planning on doing anymore Peoria shirts in the future?
Yes. We have Stage 2 coming out next week and Sandy's Drive-in is all set for a July release. We've talked with Jon from Urban Artifacts about new designs and we've received lots of great suggestions for future Peoria ideas. We love hearing from people on what they would like to see on a shirt.
Thanks to Keith and Amy for the interview and if you can’t wait for a Sandy’s Drive-In t-shirt, there’s a limited amount of these available at Urban Artifacts right now. Personally I want them both! We’ll see you all tomorrow!
Bonus Big Boy Art From Jaws The Cabbie!
Jaws the Cabbie sent in this Big Boy Art to go along with his comment. Ha! Nice one, Jaws, thanks!