To celebrate his 50th birthday, Todd Berk planned a trip, inviting seven of his Sigma Alpha Mu fraternity brothers and their wives.
“I had this idea that, before the trip, I was going to order some shirts for all the guys,” said Berk, noting he had recently seen Shop Local OSU – an online store featuring shirts and pint glasses from current and defunct Ohio State University-area bars – advertised on Facebook.
The OSU alumnus ordered eight shirts in March 2018, each emblazoned with the logo of a different bar that held “a memory of a funny thing happening or I just really liked going there,” Berk explained.
One shirt was out of stock in the size he had ordered, so the owner reached out about a replacement.
“She saw my signature on my email and asked what I did,” said Berk, who launched the Cleveland-area advertising agency Mean Joe Advertising, in 2012. “Then (she) asked why I was ordering these eight different shirts with the different sizes, and I explained it was for a trip. She thought that was cool.”
Several months later, the owner reached out to Berk and said she wanted to sell the business. She remembered their previous conversation and Berk’s interest in the store's concept. In July 2018, he met with her in Columbus to discuss the opportunity, but he decided it wasn’t the right time.
Later in the year, he heard from her again. She was listing the company with a broker, but first wanted to see if he had reconsidered her offer.
“Because we do internet advertising and social media marketing, which is what you need to do when you have an online store like this, she just thought it seemed like such a good fit,” Berk said. He mentioned the opportunity to his father, Archie Berk, and after “kicking it around a little bit,” they decided to buy it together.
Since taking over Shop Local OSU in April 2019 and moving operations to Mean Joe Advertising, the Berks have changed the company’s name to High Street Tees and have also made a few design changes.
“We have in-house people here at my advertising agency who ... help work on this,” Berk said. “We’ve also created a few new shirts, and we’re working on some new partnerships with some other current and defunct establishments.”
Because many of the products feature logos of these defunct bars, Berk said they either have partnership agreements in place or have been given permission to sell these items from the former owner.
“We treat (High Street Tees) a little bit like another client,” Berk said. “We spend time on strategizing and planning, and there’s the day-to-day business of packing up orders that come in and shipping orders out.”
Berk converted a room in Mean Joe Advertising’s office to hold High Street Tees’ inventory.
By using the creative skills of his ad agency staff, Berk said High Street Tees’ website, online ads and social media posts have improved since he took over.
“All of those things have meant ... that we have seen an increase in sales over last year,” Berk said. Two Columbus-based retail locations – Glean in Short North and Bink Davies at Easton – carry some High Street Tees items, and Berk said they sell nearly 100 shirts online per week.
Berk said he attends a handful of Ohio State football games each season, and he’s seen fans wearing High Street Tees shirts on game day.
“That has been really cool to see,” he said.
Visit HighStreetTees.com to check out their selection.