OKG Shop: Social shirts 

Local retailer Shop Good sells hand-printed shirts featuring messages of Oklahoma pride.

click to enlarge Home goods and gifts sold in Shop Good are responsibly sourced and ethically made. - ALEXA ACE
  • Alexa Ace
  • Home goods and gifts sold in Shop Good are responsibly sourced and ethically made.

Audrey and Justin Falk started with a “Free Tibet” shirt design hand-printed on used equipment in 2009. Now their brand Shop Good has grown into a large, light-filled storefront at 1007 N. Broadway Ave. in Automobile Alley.

Shop Good sells responsibly sourced, ethically made home goods and gifts, along with shirts and pullovers screen-printed onsite. Most are Oklahoma-centric, from the clean, bold design of “OKLA” adorning several tees to the colorful “I Like Russ” shirt, which features Thunder player Russell Westbrook in profile.

Other shirts have less OKC-specific designs but send a clear message about the store’s core values. “Support Public Schools” is emblazoned on one. Another carries a simple direction: “Give a Damn.”

“[The shirts are fashionable as well as] a great medium for a message,” Audrey Falk said. “I think that was important to us too. We felt like we had a lot to say.”

Neither of the Falks is an Oklahoma City native, which might be a surprise since they have so fully embraced Oklahoma ideals and state pride. They’ve lived here since 2005 and met through their work with nonprofits.

Justin Falk said they each experienced a “feeling of hopefulness” when they moved to the city.

“Especially when we were starting about 10 years ago, I think everybody felt like Oklahoma City was all potential,” he said. “It wasn’t a destination at that point, but we all felt like it could be.”

Audrey Falk agreed.

“It’s got an amazing sense of resiliency here,” she said.

Justin Falk, a graphic designer, said he pursued screen-printing as an interest somewhat randomly and taught himself how to create the designs and print the shirts.

click to enlarge Justin and Audrey Falk started Shop Good with a used printer in a barn in 2009. - ALEXA ACE
  • Alexa Ace
  • Justin and Audrey Falk started Shop Good with a used printer in a barn in 2009.

“Right off the bat, I just liked the process,” he said. “Creating screens, the image transfer — you know, getting my hands dirty with ink.”

The work includes pushing ink through mesh stencils, one for each color in the print, and then drying it. Shop Good employees do the process by hand, one piece of clothing at a time. Every shirt has a different look and personality.

In the beginning, the Falks’ investment was about $500, they said, and the business got its start on secondhand printing equipment.

“We’d set it up in an old barn,” Audrey Falk said. “So we were using a garden hose. It was pretty rough-and-tumble at the beginning. But it kind of fit our philosophy; pretty laid-back. The goal at the beginning was never to start a store. We thought we would just be doing this as a side gig.”

After the barn, they moved into a shared space in the Plaza District, helping pioneer the retail in the neighborhood just as the area came into its own. They found mentors in other local shop owners. Audrey Falk said she liked their business being part of the young artist community growing there.

Following that, they moved to a small bungalow on Ninth Street downtown and then their current location on Broadway in November 2017.

Audrey Falk credits part of Shop Good’s success to the fact that its clothing often openly advocates for causes, and a part of shirt sales has always been donated to local charities.

“A lot of that is something that’s personally engrained in who Justin and I are,” Audrey Falk said, “but a lot of it is inspired by the culture of Oklahoma, that everybody pitches in to help their neighbor.”

Many of their contributions have been toward organizations that help local children, including Positive Tomorrows, a nonprofit elementary school for children experiencing homelessness, and Special Care, a school that serves children with and without special needs.

Shop Good’s new “Support Public Schools” shirt is part of a campaign in partnership with The Foundation for Oklahoma City Public Schools. Five percent of the shirt’s sales will go to the foundation.

The Falks said they hope to someday host charity events and volunteer recruitments, getting even more hands-on in the community.

“I also think people are constantly looking for a way to connect, and T-shirts are a great way to do that,” Audrey Falk said. “You can portray things about yourself that maybe wouldn’t come up in an introductory conversation with someone. It gives people a good sense of who you are and what you stand for.”

click to enlarge Shop Good screen-prints its designs by hand one at a time. - ALEXA ACE
  • Alexa Ace
  • Shop Good screen-prints its designs by hand one at a time.

Justin Falk said they’re also planning a new series of shirts depicting Oklahoma sunsets. They are complex, colorful designs, and each run can take up to a full day to print.

“You know a lot of love goes into them,” he said.

Although the process can be automated using mechanical presses, Justin Falk said Shop Good employees are not worried about how fast or how cheap they can make shirts.

“We really embrace the handmade side of it,” he said. “We really go for the faded, vintage look to our prints, which is really hard to reproduce on a large scale.”

Audrey Falk said Shop Good products can be found in about 30 other stores in Oklahoma and they would like to go national someday. They are also considering crowdsourcing designs and including customers in their design process.

They have started a monthly “print your own shirt” event, where community members can take mini-lessons on screen-printing and leave with a shirt they make themselves. The lesson just requires participants to pay for the blank shirt.

“We really hope to always be encouraging our customers to do good,” Justin Falk said, “to live well and to do good; to think about the world and about people and what’s happening outside their circle.”

Visit shopgoodokc.com.

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