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.
So the OSU alumnus placed an order for 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, ... something like that,” 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 Cleveland-based advertising agency, Mean Joe Advertising, in 2012. “Then (she) asked why I was ordering, you know, these eight different shirts with the different sizes and I explained it was for a trip and she thought that was cool.”
“Fast forward a few months,” said Berk, and the owner reached out to him again, this time to inform him she wanted to sell the business.
She remembered their exchange “and had recalled ... what I did and that I seemed, you know, passionate or interested in just the whole concept of the T-shirts and Ohio State,” Berk said. In July 2018, he went to Columbus to meet with her and discuss the opportunity, but decided it wasn’t the right time.
Later in the year, he heard from her again. She told him she would be listing the company with a broker, but first wanted to see if he had reconsidered her offer.
“With what we do for our business, because we do internet advertising and we do social media marketing, which is, you know, kind of what you need to do when you have an online store like this, she just thought it seemed like such a good fit,” said Berk, a Solon resident.
He mentioned the opportunity to his father, Archie Berk of Pepper Pike, 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’s Chagrin Falls office, the Berks, who are both members of Anshe Chesed Fairmount Temple in Beachwood, have changed the company’s name to High Street Tees.
They 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.”
Noting a high percentage of the places they sell shirts and pint glasses for are no longer in business, 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, you know, 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 creatives at the ad agency “and all the different skills that people here have,” Berk said High Street Tees’ website, online ads and social media posts have improved since he took over.
“And 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 in Easton – carry some High Street Tees items and Berk said they sell “probably a little under a hundred” shirts online per week.
Asked if he ever sees people wearing his designs around town, Berk said, in Cleveland, not so much.
“But in Columbus, I go to usually two, three, four Ohio State football games per year,” Berk said. “And I’ve definitely seen some people walking around wearing shirts from a few of the establishments on game day, which has been really cool to see.”
Visit HighStreetTees.com to check out their selection.