It was a warm and sunny Saturday, though in Cleveland, that can change in an instant. My friends and I headed over to Cleveland Bazaar — northeast Ohio’s longest-running indie craft show, which took place just across the street from the West Side Market on May 16th. It was only slightly drizzling by time we made our way out and around to look at all the local vendors had to offer. From hand-crafted pictures, to t-shirts, to dog treats… Cleveland Bazaar has everything: with a Cleveland twist.
One table really caught my eye, with its unique designs printed on high quality tanks and tees… I couldn’t help myself when it came to We Bleed Ohio. Wallet aching from a long weekend, I absolutely had to purchase a tank that was a play on the orange “Cavs” logo, but with the words “Ohio” instead.
After countless compliments on the tank itself, I decided to do a little research on this company. Since founding We Bleed Ohio in 2011, graphic designer and Cleveland-native, Dave Gruss, has grown his business from part-time screen printing to a full-time gig — unveiling an official brick and mortar location downtown in the 5th Street Arcades last month. In an interview with Dave, I was able to learn more about We Bleed Ohio and the man behind the designs.
kc: How long have you been a graphic designer?
dg: I started designing shirts under the artist name Griggitees in 2008. Mainly submitting designs to one-a-day shirt sites, which were new back then. Slowly, I started getting approvals and picking up clients for small independents clothing brands or local bands. I joined several online t-shirt communities that really helped find new clients and for them to find me.
kc: What made you want to start WBO?
dg: At the time Peyton Hillis was the Browns superstar and he did this Incredible Hulk pose after making a great play. I knew I had to make that a shirt and WBO was kind of born from that. I came up with the brand We Bleed Ohio to provide unique designs for the die-hard Ohio sports fans. I didn’t want to have just one shirt to sell, so after quick sketch of a Wahoo skull I added that as another shirt and that was the start of it all.
kc: Why is it important to you that you represent everything Ohio with your designs?
dg: Ohio is like family to me. I love my sports teams with a passion. There was this one episode of Saved by the Bell I watched growing up and there was a joke thrown in about the Cleveland Indians. I remember sitting there thinking how that stung a bit–having my team and my hometown being made fun of. There is a pride of being from Ohio that most people don’t understand. I think it tells a lot about who we are. We stand together through the thick and thin of it all.
kc: Where do you get the inspiration for the unique designs — like the Skull Chief Wahoo or the Browns Leg Lamp?
dg: When I did the Skullhoo design there was an artist who did a series of famous cartoon characters with abnormally shaped heads in proportion to their bodies and what their skeletons would look like if they were real. I decided to do that with Wahoo. The Browns Leg Lamp came from brainstorming ideas for an ugly Christmas sweater.
kc: You state on your website that you only use Next Level Apparel as your shirt supplier… why is that especially important to you?
dg: It is important that the apparel is consistent and of the highest quality so customers know what to expect each and every time when purchasing from We Bleed Ohio. It is equally as important that the manufacturer is ethically responsible if I am going to associate it with my brand.
kc: What kind of steps had to be taken to open the brick and mortar store and what led to your decision to do it?
dg: I took my time, kept track of sales and costs to create a business plan. I also looked at several different locations over a period of time and what else was developing around the area. I think the addition of Barrio to the 5th Street Arcades is what finally made me pull the trigger. I love their tacos.
kc: What is the best piece of advice you’ve been given as an entrepreneur?
dg: Don’t be afraid to fail because it will happen.
kc: What kinds of things do you like to do in your spare time when you’re not working on WBO stuff?
dg: I spend all my free time with my family. If they let me, I’ll get a few rounds of golf in or make it out to a few games.
kc: Are the Cavs winning it all this year?
dg: Nothing is promised, the Cavs will have to give everything they got.
kc: Any predictions for the Browns season?
dg: I would love it if the Browns went with the orange pants all season.
Follow We Bleed Ohio on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, and be sure to check out their brand new retail location at the 5th Street Arcades – now open!
Just in time for the NBA Finals!!! Want to win this unisex wine and gold Believeland t-shirt? It couldn’t be easier to enter!
Rules for entering:
- Follow me on Instagram – @kimbcast
- Tag two friends in the comments section on the giveaway photo
- Follow We Bleed Ohio on Instagram – @WeBleedOhio
The giveaway will run now until the end of the day Friday, June 5th and the winner will be announced via Instagram on Monday. Good Luck!!
[questions regarding entry can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org]
And, if you don’t win, use the discount code WEBLEED10 for 10% off your next purchase!