Stay Apparel Co.

An authentic American brand of place

Tale of the tee: Pennsylvania Polka

ProductsNeal GouletComment

The late Canadian actor John Candy had a brief but unforgettable cameo in the holiday movie classic, “Home Alone.”

He played the fictional Gus Polinski, the “Polka King of the Midwest.”

“Very big in Sheboygan,” he says, referring to the Wisconsin city.

In real life as in reel life, the Midwest has a rich tradition with what began as a Czech peasant dance in the 1800s. (Polka is said to have derived from a Czech phrase for “half step,” or the dance pattern of stepping lightly from one foot to the other.)

But here in the Keystone State, we’re no polka palookas. That’s why our new Pennsylvania Polka Tee reaffirms our state’s rightful piece of the polka pie — both the music and dance style and the dot pattern in fashion.

“Pennsylvania Polka” the song is well known, of course. Written by hillbilly singer Zeke Manners and Lester Lee, it was popularized by the Andrews Sisters in the 1942 movie, “Give Out, Sisters.”

It has been covered by everyone from Canonsburg, Pa., native Bobby Vinton (“The Polish Prince”) to children’s performers The Wiggles to Jack Black in the 2018 movie “The Polka King.” That movie is based on the true story of polka legend Jan Lewan, as is the documentary, “The Man Who Would Be Polka King.”

You might be most familiar with the Frankie Yankovic version of “Pennsylvania Polka” from “Groundhog Day,” starring Bill Murray, which is set in Punxsutawney, Pa., (but mostly filmed in Woodstock, Ill.). The song is heard eight times in the movie, in which Murray’s TV weatherman character continuously relives Groundhog Day.

The song begins:

Strike up the music, the band has begun

The Pennsylvania Polka.

Pick out your partner and join in the fun

It started in Scranton, it's now No. 1

It's bound to entertain you

Everybody has a mania

To do the polka from Pennsylvania

In Northeast Pennsylvania, WVIA-TV still airs “Pennsylvania Polka” at 8 p.m. Saturdays, featuring “the best of polka music and dancing” in that region.

‘Cheerful, light nature’

Polka dancing debuted in Prague ballrooms in 1835 and reached Paris on 1840. It arrived in England and the United States in the late 1840s.

As for the connection between the dance/music and the pattern, the website said it isn’t clear, but “it’s thought that the pattern evokes the cheerful, light nature of the dance.”

The website noted that the first reference to polka dot fabric first appeared in print in 1857 in the Philadelphia-based women’s magazine Godey’s Lady’s Book.

The dance and the pattern witnessed a couple of revivals in the 20th century thanks to hit records: in 1940, Frank Sinatra with “Polka Dots and Moonbeams,” and in 1960, Brian Hyland with “Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini.”

Minnie Mouse started wearing polka dots in 1961. That makes a whole lot more sense to me than what DC Comics introduced in 1962: a villain named Polka Dot Man, who turned the polka dots on his costume into weapons.

Rest assured, the white dots on our purple Pennsylvania Polka Tee are only intended for peaceful purposes.

We’re expecting this tee to be very big in Scranton and many other parts of polka-loving Pennsylvania.

How we handle challenges is the truest test of our commitment to customer-service excellence

Products, Customer serviceNeal GouletComment
Harrisburg Flea shopper in 2018

Harrisburg Flea shopper in 2018

We were in post-pop-up market mode the second Sunday in September, celebrating a successful weekend of participating in two Harrisburg Flea events (and a birthday).

We were at The Millworks in Harrisburg when I received an email from a customer whom we had met only hours earlier. One of the shirts we sold her was the wrong size, she explained.

“Would it be possible to exchange it for the correct size?” asked the Harrisburg newcomer.

First, I apologized for the mix-up. Second, I noted that we were still in the city, maybe a half-hour from finishing. I asked if we could make the exchange yet that evening.

We never want to make a mistake, of course. It’s an inconvenience for customers, most important, and for us. It can cost us time, money and a hit to our reputation.

For the long haul

It’s always a punch to the gut when something goes awry, whether, as in this case, we apparently handed over the wrong size or there’s a problem with a shirt itself, such as tiny hole, an unstitched hem or an errant thread that marred the screen print ink (each of these has happened to us). Sometimes, a customer simply has a change of heart about a purchase.

Whatever the reason, we want our customers to be fully satisfied with their purchases and for our shirts to be worn and enjoyed. That’s because we want our customers to be with us for the long haul. This Facebook post from 2018 perfectly illustrates that point:

I’m humbled to say that Kelley, true to her word, has been a repeat customer.

We do our best to make things right in the belief that how we handle issues that occur after a sale is the truest test of our commitment to customer-service excellence.

How we react to a mistake or a concern represents another opportunity to make a good impression on a customer, perhaps even reinforcing the positive vibe that was inherent in the purchase in the first place.

We are profoundly grateful to every customer who has placed his or her faith in Stay by purchasing from us in our first two years of operation.

We take no one for granted and never will.

T(ale) of the tee: Pennsylvania Craft Beer

ProductsNeal GouletComment
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Stay Apparel Co. sells T-shirts, but we derive as much inspiration from the craft beer industry as from other clothing brands.

The bond that successful craft brewers have with their customers is something that any startup company should want to emulate. Craft beer is a great fit for makers and pop-up markets in general and Stay in particular.

On Sept. 14, we’re participating in the York Flea, which will take place at Collusion Tap Works in downtown York. That day, we’ll also be at Creatively Lancaster, which is citing the availability of craft beer — not to mention the participation of 60-plus vendors — at Clipper Magazine Stadium. On multiple occasions, we’ve celebrated the conclusion of a Harrisburg Flea with a stop at Millworks.

Last year, Stay introduced a throwback tee honoring Helb’s Keystone Brewery, which operated in York from 1873 to 1950, a bottle opener dog collar, and a bottle opener/keychain.

And this month, we’re introducing our Pennsylvania Craft Beer design, which will be available on a unisex tee and on a pint glass. The design celebrates Pennsylvania’s distinction — three years running — of being the No. 1 producer (by number of barrels) of craft beer in the United States.

Pennsylvania’s 354 breweries produced more than 3.7 million barrels of craft beer in 2018, according to the trade group Brewers Association. The number of breweries placed Pennsylvania sixth in the United States.

The list of the top 50 craft brewing companies is led by D.G. Yuengling & Son Inc. in Pottsville and also includes Artisanal Brewing Ventures (which includes Victory Brewing in Downingtown) at No. 11 and Troegs at 27.

‘Telling local stories’

Besides making great beer, Pennsylvania’s craft brewers have proven to be catalysts for economic development in their communities. It’s true for new breweries and some venerable ones alike, such as Straub’s in St. Marys, Elk County, which dates to 1872 and in June unveiled a new visitor center and tap room.

“These breweries are preserving small traditional main streets, renovating unique architectural buildings, and telling local stories with their naming of their beers,” said Alison Feeney, the author of “For the Love of Beer: Pennsylvania’s Breweries.”

To be fair, similar stories are playing out across the United States. But Pennsylvania’s craft beer industry generated an economic impact of $5.8 billion in 2016, the most recent year for which numbers are available, second only to $7.3 billion in California, which has a population four times greater than the Keystone State’s.

In addition to Feeney’s book, you’ll find another overview of the Pennsylvania craft beer industry in the form of the documentary “Poured in Pennsylvania,” which can be viewed on Amazon Prime.

Both resources are road maps to taking road trips to Pennsylvania craft breweries and, more than that, discovering parts of the state that you otherwise might not visit. What’s more, the craft beer culture is a reminder to American consumers that there’s great value in spending their money locally.

Such a change in mindset can only benefit the American maker community.

To this, we raise a Pennsylvania Craft Beer pint glass in salute.

Stay is an 'authentic American' brand; here's what we mean by that

Made in USA, BrandingNeal GouletComment
All of our products are made in the USA, such as this Indiana-made insulated tumbler.

All of our products are made in the USA, such as this Indiana-made insulated tumbler.

At many of our appearances, a member of the public will ask us what Stay means. We explain that our tees connote a sense of place, as in a period of staying somewhere.

That’s pretty easy for us to illustrate, given that our shirts mostly bear place names: Hershey, Harrisburg, York, Lancaster, Lititz, Philadelphia, Happy Valley, Pennsylvania, USA (and more to come). Place also is significant because everything we sell is made in the USA.

Some people have conjectured that Stay is an encouragement to “stay” domestic with one’s purchases. That works, too.

Our name is intriguing to people, which often leads to conversations. And that engagement is the most rewarding part of what we do. Ultimately we want and need for people to buy our products, but we don’t want it to be a one-time thing. We want to have a relationship in perpetuity, so we continue to tell our story at pop-up events, in our e-mail newsletter, through this blog.

Which brings us to our tagline, “An authentic American brand of place.” We’ve yet to have anyone ask what we mean by authentic American. We’ll answer just the same.

There are countless U.S.-based apparel companies that import everything they sell. Some of them started out promoting their “Made in the USA” bonafides, only to end up offshoring their products.

I was a big fan of one such company, which not coincidentally abandoned U.S. manufacturing soon after obtaining a multimillion dollar investment from a national retailer. Today, that company I used to admire greatly can only say that its tees are “designed in the USA.”

Another retailer I like offers a significant number of American-made products, but you can’t be certain. If you don’t look closely, you might find that a shirt is “responsibly imported.”

Stay is only made in the USA

I recently had an email exchange with a company that makes custom patches for ball caps. It wasn’t clear from the company’s website where its products — the hats or the patches — were made. I received this explanation:

“Our patches are manufactured overseas (95% of the patches you will find are either made there as well or made to look like they aren’t) and we source all of the hats from many companies all over the world. We do all of the design and finishing work and ship from [a Southern state],” the director of operations wrote.

Yet we sourced Stay patches from Los Angeles and then had them sewn onto our Stay ball caps, which are cut, sewn and assembled for us in Cleveland. Even at that, we’re able to sell a hat at a reasonable profit for $25.

And that’s a long way of showing you what we mean when we describe Stay as an authentic American brand of place.

Our tee vendor manufactures in multiple states, and we print all of our tees in Lancaster, Pa. We’ve sourced knit hats from Milwaukee, dog collars from Portland, Ore., insulated tumblers from Shelbyville, Ind., canvas grocery bags from El Paso, Texas, zip bags from Lewiston, Maine.

We’re an American company that makes each of its products in America. Our customers never will have to wonder whether there’s an exception to that rule.

That’s as “authentic American” as we can be.

Kicking off another season with our Hershey Football Training Camp Tee

ProductsNeal GouletComment

In 1945, John Sollenberger had what decades later sounds like a Hail Mary pass of a notion: to bring a National Football League team to Hershey.

Said Sollenberger, who oversaw programming for what then was known as Hershey Stadium:

“We have the facilities and we have the population in and around Hershey that would compare favorably with Green Bay,” according to, citing an Associated Press story.

Truth be told, Green Bay, Wis., home to the Packers, is an outlier in the big-market NFL, but Sollenberger was on to something. Even today, the population of the Harrisburg-York-Lebanon Combined Statistical Area, which includes Hershey, is more than three times larger than the Green Bay-Shamano CSA.

Needless to say, Hershey never landed an NFL team to call its own, but it was a fixture in the league. For most of the 1940s through 1960s, Hershey was the training camp host to NFL teams:

  • Pittsburgh Steelers, 1941, 1942 and 1946

  • Philadelphia Eagles, 1945, 1951-63, 1965-67

  • Baltimore Colts, 1947 (members of the All-America Football Conference, which merged with the NFL in 1950)

  • Boston Yanks, 1948

  • New York Bulldogs, 1949

‘Part of the community’

We’re honoring that professional era of Hershey’s rich football history with our new Hershey Football Training Camp Tee.

Hershey is most associated with ice hockey (the Bears’ 11 Calder Cups are the most championships in American Hockey League history), but the arrival of football training camp was a big deal in town.

From the Hershey Community Archives website:

“From 1951 to 1967*, the Philadelphia Eagles came to Hershey for their summer training camp. The team would arrive in late July or early August for three weeks of pre-season conditioning. The football players were housed in rooms on the third and fourth floors of the Community Building.

“Each summer the Eagles really did become part of the community. In addition to living at the Community Building, the players used its recreational facilities to relax in the evenings. Many local boys remember playing pool or handball with the football players.”

Training camp also brought with it NFL preseason games played in Hershey. It was at the Hershey Community Archives that I had an opportunity to page through a program from an August 1964 exhibition between the Eagles and the Colts.

The program, which cost 50 cents, noted that training camp had started on July 12 for rookies, quarterbacks and centers, one week ahead of the rest of the squad (this year, all Eagles players reported to NovaCare Complex in Philadelphia on July 24).

‘Build a Winner at Hershey Training Camp’

A photo caption said, “The new Eagles are perhaps the most spirited ever to train at Hershey and certainly the best conditioned. Here they are racing off the field after a hard practice session.”

An article bore the headline, “Strain and Muscle Build a Winner at Hershey Training Camp,” the second paragraph noting: “Observers in Hershey, professional and amateur alike, have been tremendously impressed with the orderly, rugged, and hard-working practice schedule set by Coach [Joseph] Kuharich and his four assistants.”

Kuharich, who had been lured away from Notre Dame for the 1964 season, went 6-8 that year. He is the only Eagles coach with a losing record for his time with the team, which ended in 1968.

Sollenberger and Hershey never got their own NFL team, but they came pretty close in 1952.

That was the last year that an NFL team folded. The Dallas Texans (formerly the Boston Yanks and the New York Bulldogs) were so abysmal at the gate and on the field that in mid-November, the league took control of the team and relocated its home base to Hershey, where the team practiced.

The team’s two remaining “home” games, however, were played in Akron, Ohio (the only win of the season, against the Chicago Bears and played in front of 3,000 fans) and Detroit, en route to a 1-11 overall record.

The NFL disbanded the team, with many players winding up on the new incarnation of the Baltimore Colts in 1953.

Meanwhile, the Eagles would continue to call Hershey home for training camp through 1967.

Find Stay tees at Revolt Style Studio and these other stockists

Retailers, Products, AppearancesNeal GouletComment
Not only is Revolt Style Studio in York carrying a selection of Stay tees, but we popped up in front of the store for First Friday on July 5, 2019.

Not only is Revolt Style Studio in York carrying a selection of Stay tees, but we popped up in front of the store for First Friday on July 5, 2019.

This is how business deals ought to go down.

On June 20, I received this Instagram direct message from Jessica Weikert, the owner of Revolt Style Studio in downtown York. Mind you, I had only previously met her briefly when she stopped by a Stay pop-up appearance at Central Market in York.

“Hey! If you guys aren’t selling in any shops in York right now, I’d love to carry your York shirts,” Jess wrote.

I responded: “In fact, we aren’t and would love to team up.”

Jess replied, “Great!”

Exactly one week later, after a brief back-and-forth via email to work out terms of our arrangement, I delivered five of our tee designs to Revolt Style Studio, 26 N. Beaver St., which Jess immediately put on sale and promoted via her social media channels.

And 11 days after that, at Jess’ invite and as a way to demonstrate our partnership, the Stay tent was in front of Revolt Style Studio, in the middle of a closed-to-vehicular traffic Beaver Street, offering our tees to participants in downtown’s First Friday event.

I have visions of what Stay ultimately might become, but in the meantime we are blessed to have opportunities to pop up at area events and markets such as Market on Chocolate in Hershey, Harrisburg Flea, York Flea, Creatively Lancaster and Pop-Up Ave in State College. (Of course, we offer all of our products here on our website.)

Retailers such as Revolt Style Studio also are vitally important to us, at least as much for helping to get the Stay brand into the public as for selling quantities of our tees. We make less money with each tee sold this way, but retailers provide a great service by granting us access to their customers.

You can find the current roster of Stay stockists here.

Our arrangements vary with each retailer (in some cases they purchase, in others we consign), but the bottom line is that we’re eager to grow our existing relationships and to explore new opportunities. If you are interested in carrying Stay stuff, please send us an email at

Or you can do as Jess did and send us a direct message through Instagram (or Facebook). Our handle is @stayapparelco for each.

Stay still: the making of our spring photo shoot

Products, CommunityNeal GouletComment

We’ve had a relationship with the Hershey Volunteer Fire Department since the day we launched Stay Apparel Co. in October 2017. We developed our Station 48 tee in conjunction with the fire department, and every penny from the sale of the tee benefits the department’s capital campaign.

We have a deep appreciation for the brave men and women who give of their time — not one member receives compensation — and risk their lives to protect our hometown. We’re also grateful to the department for granting us access to gorgeous Station 48 for part of our May 2019 photo shoot.

We’ll be sharing the fruits of our shoot on our Instagram and Facebook pages for months to come, but above and below are some samples, along with explanations of some of what you’re seeing.

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An abiding respect for the past informs the look of our tees, whether our original designs or the retro designs (The Flying Machine, Garvin’s, Helb’s Keystone Brewery, Herpak Franks) featuring brands of yesteryear. It also inspires many of the props we incorporate into our shoots.

For this picnic shot, showcasing our latest York tee, our model is drinking a can of Moxie, America’s first mass-produced soft drink. You can learn much more about Moxie here.

A decade ago, we purchased these retro aluminum lawn chairs from Lawn Chair USA of Fort Pierce, Fla., ostensibly for use watching youth baseball games. They’ve witnessed a fair number of innings and lots of sunshine with the original webbing still intact. We thought they were a fitting complement to our backyard shoot.


Is there a better bargain going than a Wiffle-brand plastic bat and ball, which our local supermarket sells for $2.99? Shelton, Conn.-based, family-owned Wiffle has provided backyard fun since 1953 and was enshrined in the Toy Hall of Fame in 2017. We can only hope that we have such Staying power.


Thumbing through an old Hershey Bears game program, we came across an ad for Dominion hockey sticks. Incredibly, we learned, they were made for only a short period of time in Hummelstown, Pa., next to Hershey.

We tracked down one of the sticks and found a photo of Willie Marshall, the American Hockey League’s all-time scoring leader and one-time Hershey Bear, holding a Dominion stick in a photo with his Baltimore Clippers teammates.


This quilt, a wonderfully thoughtful and beautifully crafted gift to us, features every Stay tee to date. If you look closely, you’ll see stars and stripes stitching, an homage to our focus on offering only U.S.-made tees and accessories.

Buying American-made is easier and more affordable than you think

Made in USANeal Goulet1 Comment

An organization called the Made in America Movement posted the image of an American flag puzzle on Instagram. One of the puzzle pieces, bearing white stars on blue, appeared to be falling off.

“United we can rebuild the American economy: Buy American Made!,” the copy read.

“We The People,” the post continued, “have the purchasing power to create change. Start voting with your wallet. Spend it where you earn it and buy American made!”

To which one conflicted person commented: “I’d love to. Did we all get 30 percent income raises I’m not aware of??”

I figuratively removed my U.S.-made Stay trucker cap ($25) and scratched my head in disbelief at the notion that to buy American one has to be well off. Whether it’s the result of ignorance or apathy, that commenter and other American consumers who think that buying U.S.-made is beyond their means are just wrong.

In fact, an array of affordable everyday Made in the USA options is out there if you’re only willing to look. And you don’t have to look that far.

Local makers markets, by definition, offer an abundance of U.S.-made products, from soaps and candles to leather crafts and jewelry to men’s ties and women’s dresses. In our area, consider shopping at Market on Chocolate in Hershey; Harrisburg Flea; York Flea; Creatively Lancaster; Pop Up Ave in State College.

Stay is proud to have been a part of each one. Our products range from a $5 keychain to a $15 insulated tumbler, from a $20 USA pennant to $25 T-shirts and $35 sweatshirts.

I concede that it sometimes takes a little extra work to find U.S.-made products. My local office products store carries only imported writing pads, so I searched online and found Tops-brand writing pads that are made in the USA. (With 100 sheets and a thicker chipboard backer, they are the best writing pad I’ve ever used.) Tops offers a wide range of U.S.-made office products.

Made in America Store

My early-spring pilgrimage to Buffalo included a visit to the flagship Made in America store in Elma, N.Y. What began in 2010 in the vacant showroom of a closed auto dealership has grown to seven general merchandise stores in western New York, plus a web store.

Everything the Made in America store sells is “100 percent American made, down to its packaging,” according to the company.

As a general merchandiser, the Made in America store has to be price conscious, and the company offers weekly sales:

Made in America Co.

On the luxury end of American specialty products, you’ll find Jacob Bromwell, which celebrates its 200th birthday this year. It is the oldest kitchenware and housewares manufacturer in North America. Sister company Made in America Co. has been at it only since 2013 but describes itself as the world's largest retailer of American-made products, comprising Jacob Bromwell items and those of many other U.S. manufacturers and offering a wide range of price points. What’s more, the Made in America Co. website includes The American List featuring 800-plus Made in the USA companies.


Just two weeks before I visited the Made in America store, I learned about AnytownUSA, which describes itself as “the online marketplace for all things American-made.”

I was picking up a couple of pennant pillows — featuring our original USA felt pennant — created for Stay by Darriel Davis, a talented artist and crafter in Lancaster. Darriel told me that her friend, Geralyn Breig, was the founder of AnytownUSA.

From Breig’s blog post in June 2018:

For many people in our country, the American dream is to make things they’re proud of and to sell them, so they can support themselves and their families. I started out wanting to help people achieve their American dream by buying more American-made goods. Soon I realized other folks feel the way I do. There are many reasons to buy close to home. Take your pick: It’s better for the environment … it helps our economy …it’s always good to know more about who makes the stuff we buy and how they make them. With my business and marketing experience, I got to thinking: There should be a place, a community, where the people who want to sell things they’ve made and the people who want to buy things made in America can meet and support each other.

Norton’s USA

Deborah Leydig worked in fashion design, created her own label of designer gift-wrapping paper, and became an actress. While researching a stage adaption of the book, “Nickled and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America,” she discovered how much U.S. manufacturing had moved outside of the country.

In 2007, she started Norton’s USA, described as a “uniquely American general store,” in Barrington, Ill. Her physical store operates from a quaint old livery barn and she sells online. How cool are these glass Christmas ornaments?

Embracing a buy-American philosophy was an evolutionary process for me. I’ve always looked at labels and tags, but years ago I may have only cringed when buying imports. Today, unless I find no other options or it’s an urgent matter, I just go without.

Besides, the old newspaper reporter in me likes the challenge of finding American options. What’s more, it has disciplined my shopping, which taps into the “buy less but better” concept. It also gives me the satisfaction of knowing that I’m helping to keep my fellow Americans employed.

To that commenter who facetiously referenced 30 percent raises: No, most of us haven’t gotten those kinds of pay hikes.

But what I do know is that the more we buy American, the better it is for American jobs and American wages. And that’s good for the United States of America.

These Stay models are graduating from high school, ready to scale new heights

Products, BrandingNeal GouletComment
These and several other Stay models are members of the class of 2019.

These and several other Stay models are members of the class of 2019.

Flashlight in hand, Jim O’Shell was leading me up the open steel stairs. We had only reached the third floor when my fear of heights — and having to climb 10 more stories — got the best of me. My heart pounding, I told Jim that I didn’t think I could make it.

I felt terrible for wasting Jim’s time. I didn’t know Jim until I reached out to him through Facebook, requesting that he consider allowing Stay to use the giant old cocoa bean silos in Hershey as a backdrop for our latest photo shoot. This was a pre-shoot scouting expedition.

Jim and his partners own the giant tan silos, which were once part of the Hershey’s chocolate factory. There’s a big open room with lots of windows at the top of the silos (I had seen photos online). I thought the combination of streaming light and industrial grit would be a great setting for our photos — until I started the ascent.

I couldn’t imagine making it to the top or, achieving that, having to climb down.

I was disappointed, but the photo shoot had to go on. On May 19, to be precise. Fortunately, the Hershey Fire Department, for which we developed our Station 48 tee, was kind enough to open the doors to its gorgeous building to us. On this steamy Sunday afternoon, we also shot outdoors, first in ChocolateTown Square and then in my backyard.

The class of 2019

This was our fifth photo shoot since August 2017, when we tapped the staff at Steele Salon in Hershey as our first models. Then as now, we needed photos for our website and social media channels.

An iPhone is invaluable for photos (and many other things), but I know my limitations as a shutterbug. We put too much time and effort into developing great-looking tees to scrimp when it comes to presenting them in pictures. Hence, the hiring of our talented photographer, Amanda, to keep us true to our brand image. We’d be lost without her.

Likewise, I can’t thank enough the Stay models — friends and family members who’ve so generously given of their time and visages for the sake of our little enterprise. Our youngest and oldest models are decades apart in age.

However, most of them are members of the Hershey High School class of 2019, so this latest photo shoot was bittersweet. Once they head off to college in late summer, it’ll be harder than ever to get even a core group of them together. What an impressive group they are: smart, kind, funny, talented, ambitious and ready to scale new heights.

For them, 13 flights of open steel stairs are no match.

Sears long ago left the building, but Memphis has witnessed a Crosstown revival

Neal GouletComment
Crosstown Concourse in Memphis, Tenn.

Crosstown Concourse in Memphis, Tenn.

Crosstown Concourse wasn’t much on our radar when we visited Memphis, Tenn., for a long weekend in late February.

We had so many other stops on our to-do list, from Graceland and Sun Studio to the National Civil Rights Museum and Beale Street to craft beer and barbecue.

I vaguely knew that Crosstown Concourse was a former Sears distribution center, but I was unprepared for the enormity of the complex (it’s the largest commercial building in Tennessee) and unaware of what it had meant to Memphis back in the glory days when Sears was the city’s largest employer and America’s No. 1 retailer.

At French Truck Coffee on Crosstown’s first level, while my wife and son ordered (my next cup of coffee will be my first!), I struck up a brief conversation with a young woman behind the counter. I inquired about the colossal Art Deco building in which the coffee shop was a mere speck.

She knew some of the history, but most important steered me to the website/podcast “99% Invisible,” specifically an article titled, “Ghost Plants: Reusing Huge Abandoned Sears Buildings Across Urban America.”

One of those ghosts happened to be what is now Crosstown Concourse.

What the Memphis Business Journal once dubbed “the Mount Everest of abandoned Memphis commercial properties,” Crosstown Concourse is a sad reminder of what retail in America used to look and feel like and what we have lost in the digital age.

Yet it’s also a shining example of how persistence and innovation — and even a little benign neglect — not only can save historically and architecturally significant buildings but also make them thriving destinations once again.

It reminded me of the American Tobacco Historic District in Durham, N.C., which transformed what had been the largest tobacco operation in the world into a thriving mixed-used complex across from the home of the legendary Durham Bulls baseball team.

‘Even an in-house hospital’

Richard Warren Sears started selling watches in 1886, which led to a massive mail-order business and ultimately a brick-and-mortar empire that ruled the retail landscape for decades.

Originally built in 1927, Sears Crosstown had been a massive Sears distribution center and retail store.

Sears built 10 of these similar properties across the country between 1910 and 1930, according to the Memphis Business Journal. The 99% Invisible story juxtaposes black-and-white photos of the Minneapolis, Boston, Los Angeles and Memphis locations.

Building Design + Construction noted: “Sears shipped everything the consumer could wish for from these massive warehouses: Kenmore appliances, Craftsman tools, kits to build a house. You could order a hound dog. Or a donkey.”

When the Memphis complex opened on Aug. 27, 1927, one-in-four Memphians passed through the doors, according to

Sears spent a cool $5 million on what was to be their eighth regional distribution center, raising the roof in an astonishing 180 days! … Planners didn’t skimp on the amenities, either: Sears Crosstown boasted a soda fountain, a luncheonette, a cafeteria exclusively for employees, even an in-house hospital.

But the retail store closed in 1983 and the rest of the complex followed suit in 1993. Crosstown Concourse’s website noted that it stood as a “beacon of blight” for 20 years until 30 funding sources and 40 founding tenants came together to save it between 2010 and 2017.

Based on what the complex has become, it was well worth the wait.

Today, the 10-story, 1.5 million-square-foot “vertical urban village” is a “creative cauldron” that includes 265 apartments, a gym, theater, art gallery, stores, restaurants, doctor and dentist offices, a pharmacy, even a charter public high school. The uses seem endless, which helps explain why some 3,000 people per day cycle through the complex.

We didn’t have nearly enough time to explore Crosstown Concourse, where a Black History Month event was taking place that Sunday afternoon. We had lunch at Farm Burger but regrettably didn’t venture down to the far end where Crosstown Brewing Co. recently became the city’s newest craft brewery.

If we get back to Memphis, perhaps we’ll start at Crosstown Concourse. Heck, we could even stay there: rooms can be rented overnight.

We've added eight tees and a tote bag so far this year

ProductsNeal GouletComment

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When I think of Stay’s product prolificity in 2019, Johnny Cash comes to mind.

None of our new tees is black, so that’s not why I invoke the Man in Black. Rather, it’s Cash singing “I’ve Been Everywhere”:

To wit: “I’ve been to Reno, Chicago, Fargo, Minnesota, Buffalo, Toronto, Winslow … “

We get around, too, for pop-up events in old department stores, in hotel banquet rooms and on city streets. But we also travel in a figurative sense, as we’ve done with the recent introduction of new Harrisburg, Hershey, Lancaster, York and Happy Valley tees.

We’ve added eight tees in all, including our John Updike-inspired heart shirt in a women’s cut and children’s sizes and a new version of our popular unisex Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful tee, also in a women’s cut and children’s sizes.

We added a Garvin’s department store retro tee, giving us one for Lancaster to complement our Flying Machine (Hershey), Helb’s Keystone Brewery (York), and Herpak Franks (Harrisburg) throwback designs.

Canvas grocery bag

All told, the Stay lineup now comprises 30 distinct tees.

Our one other addition this year is a cotton canvas grocery bag featuring the Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful design. It’s roomy and sturdy for carrying food and beverage, but it’s so stylish that you’ll feel comfortable taking it to work or on a trip.

Of course, everything we sell is always available on We bring a representative selection to all of our pop-up appearances, too. If you’re coming to see us at a show and want to make sure we have a certain item, please send us a note at and we’ll be more than happy to oblige.

We haven’t been everywhere, man, but we try to make our way around the midstate. We hope to see you down the road.

Tale of the tee: Garvin's department store

ProductsNeal GouletComment
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Stay spent three Saturdays in December 2018 participating in Creatively Lancaster’s pop-up market at Park City Center. We were among dozens of vendors selling from tables in a portion of the former Bon-Ton department store.

We returned to the otherwise empty store April 13 for another Creatively Lancaster show. The Bon-Ton, which began in York, Pa., in 1898 and became a regional chain, went out of business in 2018 (although efforts are afoot to bring it back). If we project 44 years into the future, what will people remember about Bon-Ton?

I ask because 44 years ago, another department store went out of business in downtown Lancaster. Like Bon-Ton, Garvin’s, the self-described “store for the thrifty,” lasted for more than a century, albeit with one location.

Having only arrived in south-central Pennsylvania in 1991 and never having lived in Lancaster, I hadn’t heard of Garvin’s until 2018, when I stumbled upon one of its paper bags on eBay. My subsequent research revealed a fascinating company that for decades was at the heart of life in Lancaster.

That’s a big reason why we made Garvin’s the subject of our newest retro tee, joining a lineup of local brands of yesteryear that also includes our Helb’s Keystone Brewery (York), Herpak Franks (Harrisburg), and Flying Machine restaurant (Hershey) tees.

Next door to the courthouse

From a 1970 postcard, East King Street, Lancaster, looking toward Penn Square, Garvin’s (note the G logo on the brick facade) is next to the old Lancaster County Courthouse. (Copyright Melvin J. Horst)

From a 1970 postcard, East King Street, Lancaster, looking toward Penn Square, Garvin’s (note the G logo on the brick facade) is next to the old Lancaster County Courthouse. (Copyright Melvin J. Horst)

Milton Thomas Garvin, a native of Fulton Township in southern Lancaster County, moved to the city of Lancaster at age 14 in 1863 and became an errand boy at an East King Street dry goods store called R.E. Fahnestock. Garvin worked his way up the ranks and, after Fahnestock’s death, bought the store in 1894, renaming it M.T. Garvin & Co.

At that time, the store comprised one building, just west of the county courthouse. Garvin’s purchased adjacent buildings in 1912 and in 1927, according to the Elizabethtown Chronicle newspaper. Upon completion of the expansion and renovation, it became known as the “Greater Garvin Store” in the company’s print ads.

A 1929 Garvin’s ad in the Chronicle promoted Suburban Day Saturday:

“A day when our Country friends and customers will come to Garvin’s by the hundreds to obtain the biggest bargains of the Spring season.” For example, women’s coats normally priced $14.75 to $19.50 were on sale for $12.

Garvin’s also gave back to its employees. When Hershey Park (it was two words back then) opened a new restaurant in July 1916, the Harrisburg Telegraph reported, it was “inaugurated by a party of employees of M.T. Garvin & Co. of Lancaster, who brought hundreds of flags to show their patriotism.”

The American economy entered a mild recession in summer 1929 (a Great Depression would arrive that fall). On June 27, Garvin’s closed for its annual picnic, held at the Carsonia amusement park in Reading.

“Special trolley cars will convey the picnicers to the Park, while others will go by automobile,” according to the Chronicle. “Sports and games of various sorts have been arranged.”

In July, to mark the federal government’s release of new currency, Garvin’s released 100 balloons into the air. Each balloon bore a tag that could be redeemed for a new one-dollar bill (worth about $15 today).

In 1936, M.T. Garvin died of a heart attack at age 76. His store would continue for another 39 years.

Garvin’s tee

Our Garvin’s tee debuted at the April Creatively Lancaster show. Older shoppers were drawn to it; some had been customers or worked there. From them I learned that Garvin’s was among three downtown department stores, joining Hager’s and Watt & Shand on King Street. (How’s this for coming full-circle: Bon-Ton ended up at Park City through its purchase of Watt & Shand in 1992.)

When you bought something at Garvin’s, in the early days at least, you gave your money to a clerk who then put it into a pneumatic tube that was whisked away to a central cashier. The cashier would provide the appropriate change and send it back to the clerk.

One man told me that he worked at Garvin’s in two stints in the late 1950s, early 1960s. He said there was a small grocery in the basement, but the food warehouse was on the sixth floor. The goods could be moved to the basement by means of gravity, winding down a spiral chute.

One day he grabbed a piece of cardboard and road down the chute, only to land embarrassingly at the feet of the store president.

The man’s wife joined him toward the end of our conversation. “Did you tell him about the most important thing that happened to you at Garvin’s?” she asked.

He met her, she explained, during the several years she also was a Garvin’s employee.

By the 1970s, downtowns began to hollow out, in part because shopping tastes shifted to shiny new enclosed malls such as Park City Center, which opened in 1971. The end came for Garvin’s in November 1975, the Lebanon Daily News citing the high cost of doing business, high interest rates on bank loans, the calling of a bank loan, and disruption of the business by local construction among the reasons for the store’s closing.

For 118 employees, the closing meant lost jobs. For Lancaster, it was the loss of a downtown institution after 129 years.

But 44 years since the closing, the Garvin’s name is back in a small way on our tee. And the old Garvin’s store is coming back, too, as the new headquarters for Woodstream Corp., a maker of pest control and lawn and garden products that is relocating 180 jobs to the site from Lititz.

With a wave to the past, the classic felt pennant has made a big comeback

Products, VendorsNeal GouletComment
Our USA pennant, manufactured for us by Standard Pennant Co., Big Run, Pa.

Our USA pennant, manufactured for us by Standard Pennant Co., Big Run, Pa.

I had written several blog posts (for my public relations business) about some of my favorite U.S.-made products and brands when I decided to get in on the act.

It was fall 2016, and the holidays were soon upon us. I needed a couple of items that we could produce quickly. I reached out to one of those favorite U.S. brands, Oxford Pennant in Buffalo, N.Y., a designer and manufacturer of wool felt pennants, flags and banners. Oxford’s retro vibe fit well with my image for Stay Apparel Co., which I had been pondering for some time but hadn’t yet launched.

Oxford founders and owners Dave Horesh and Brett Mikoll helped me develop a retro Hershey pennant, on maroon felt with cream-colored band and screen print. It was in our initial lineup when Stay debuted in October 2017. In January 2018, we introduced a USA pennant, made for us by century-old Standard Pennant Co. in Big Run, Pa.

‘Started with a pennant’

Stay’s focus is mostly on tees branded for places: Hershey, Harrisburg, York, Lancaster, Lititz, Happy Valley, Philly, Pennsylvania, USA. But the Stay logo is a flag, and pennants are a perfect accessory for our brand, given that historically they have been one of the best ways to convey a pride of place: of cities and towns; of colleges and sports teams; of events and attractions. (Our Happy Valley tees, in short and long sleeves, feature a pennant design on the front.)

Our first product, a Hershey wool felt pennant we developed with Oxford Pennant in Buffalo, N.Y.

Our first product, a Hershey wool felt pennant we developed with Oxford Pennant in Buffalo, N.Y.

Perhaps you are familiar with the hat brand ’47. The name references 1947, the year that twin Italian immigrant brothers Henry and Arthur D’Angelo started Twins Enterprises in Massachusettts. I knew of Twins because the D’Angelo family for decades has operated a souvenir stand across from Fenway Park, home of my beloved Boston Red Sox.

An October 2018 story in Esquire explained that it wasn’t hats that got the D’Angelos started:

Arthur D’Angelo can’t recall much about his start with the brand, but his son, Bobby, helps translate some of the stories he can recall his dad telling. Namely, that the brand so heavily focused on hats and T-shirts nowadays actually started with a pennant.

“After World War II, the country was a different place,” says Bobby. “My father followed the Freedom Train, selling American pennants. The first one he sold was a Declaration of Independence pennant. Today, it’s all about hats and shirts. In those days it wasn’t; it was completely different back then.”

After the Declaration of Independence pennant came the Red Sox ones. The Red Sox won the American League Pennant in 1946; the brothers thought selling sports pennants might work as well as peddling political ones. So they started ’47 (originally Twin Enterprises). They sold the pennants alongside newspapers and, eventually, baseball caps.

Pennants can put you in a time and a place but are timeless.

I can remember my parents buying me a blue-with-white felt pennant with “Lisbon” printed on it when we attended an open house at Lisbon Elementary School in Maine. I ordered a pennant from the old Philadelphia Firebirds hockey team when I was a kid; it was one of the rigid ones that were popular in the 1970s and, to my great chagrin, arrived folded in an envelope! I gave throwback felt pennants from Philadelphia-based Mitchell & Ness as gifts to a couple newspaper colleagues when they moved on to new jobs.

Pennants can come in different sizes (ours are 7 inches by 21 inches; 9 inches by 27 inches is another popular dimension), but unlike tees they don’t face the challenge of fitting a human form.

Pennants are an inexpensive way to decorate (ours sell for $20), whether pinned to a bulletin board or framed behind glass or sewn to a pillow.

Most important, pennants are fun. Try looking at Oxford’s assortment without smiling or even laughing: see exhibit A and exhibit B, for instance.

We envision adding more pennants in the future (if you have an idea, please send it to Classic wool felt pennants will always have a home at Stay.

Long may they wave.

Stay sells stuff at spring shows

AppearancesNeal GouletComment
The Stay big top returns to downtown State College and Pop Up Ave on April 27.

The Stay big top returns to downtown State College and Pop Up Ave on April 27.

No seashells, but we'll have a full complement of U.S.-made Stay tees and accessories at all of our appearances as winter gives way to spring.

Here's where you will find us, with our first outdoor show under the Stay big top scheduled for April 20. All events are free:

Of course, if you can't see us in person, we sell everything online and offer fast, affordable shipping ($5 per order, free for purchases of $75 or more in the contiguous United States).

In person or online, you always get a free Stay sticker with any purchase.

Pocket change: a call for American consumers to ‘buy less but better’

ProductsNeal GouletComment
American Giant’s pop-up store in SoHo, New York City.

American Giant’s pop-up store in SoHo, New York City.

My drive from the Stay global headquarters in Hershey to Central Market in York one Saturday morning in January coincided with WITF-FM’s re-airing of an episode of “How I Built This,” the popular podcast “about innovators, entrepreneurs, and idealists, and the stories behind the movements they built.”

I had heard this episode before, but something guest Yvon Chouinard said resonated with me upon a second listen. The founder of outdoor brand Patagonia (incredibly, I had not known that he grew up in my hometown in Maine until recently) maintained that his company still “owned” the products it sold.

He was referring to Patagonia’s “ironclad guarantee,” which promises that products not performing to a customer’s satisfaction can be returned “for a repair, replacement or refund.” Used Patagonia products also can be traded in for merchandise credit.

Chouinard allowed that his products are not inexpensive but are built with durability and practicality in mind. He suggested buying a ski jacket that also can be worn over a suit coat in a rainstorm in New York City.

“Own fewer things,” he said, “but really good things.”

Giving purpose to purchases

That line struck me because it’s a position I’ve taken to heart, focusing my purchases on really good things made in America.

Stay sells only U.S.-made clothing and accessories and always will. I believe that American-made products are of better quality because they adhere to higher standards than cheap imports do. And buying American keeps dollars in U.S. communities and helps to employ fellow Americans.

To live the buy-American credo sometimes takes a little more effort (inspecting labels, sending emails to a retailer’s customer service to verify a product’s country of origin, searching online) but ultimately is liberating in that it gives purpose and structure to my purchases. It’s a philosophy that I hope more of my fellow Americans will adopt for the good of us all.

No doubt, America’s shrinking middle class and widening income inequality have macro-economic causes, but American consumers individually bear responsibility, too, after decades of demanding and devouring ever-lower prices, literally buying into the notion that it doesn’t matter where things are made as long as they don’t cost much. (Great line from the song “Morning Moon” by Canada’s The Tragically Hip: “Someone’s paying when something’s too cheap.”)

It’s a trend that has hollowed out the American apparel industry and with it much of our manufacturing base, jobs and communities. As recently as the 1990s, half of the apparel sold in the United States was made here. Now it’s only 3 percent.

Three percent.

American-made flannel’s return

At the end of 2018, Woolrich closed its legendary woolen mill in its northern Pennsylvania hometown. A year earlier, the last American factory making high-end selvedge denim, operated by Cone Mills in Greensboro, N.C., closed its doors.

Yet there are pockets of hope. Dearborn Denim, founded in 2016, makes fantastic blue jeans in Chicago, selling direct to customers online and at two Windy City stores. Given the comfort, fit and price (starting at $60), they’re a great value.

I always look forward to Dearborn Denim’s email updates. Founder Rob McMillan does a great job of keeping customers abreast of operational developments, including a late-January announcement that the company has switched from a domestic denim source to a Mexican mill – operated by Cone Mills.

McMillan wrote:

No lie: the remaining stretch denim made in the USA simply does not meet our high standards … a devastating realization for us. This news has inspired us to begin plans for building out our own denim mill — operating here in Chicago. That plan is at least 4 years away and requires a great deal of work, support, and luck to be possible.

It’s easy to get behind a guy like McMillan and a brand such as Dearborn. I feel the same way about founder Bayard Winthrop and his American Giant, which began in 2012. San Francisco-based American Giant earned cult status when its hoodie was dubbed “the greatest sweatshirt ever made.”

The company is in the process of rolling out the first shirts sewn from American-made flannel in decades. The New York Times chronicled the quest in a lengthy story last year.

Like Dearborn, American Giant has a direct-to-consumer approach. In a Q&A with the Aspen Ideas Festival, Winthrop offered this take:

I think what the internet and e-commerce has allowed for is really a fundamental rethinking of business structures. In our case, our direct-to-consumer brand uses an American-made supply chain, and leverages what the internet allows businesses to do. With that, we can think about building great American products again, and price them in a way that takes them out of the fashion boutiques of Brooklyn and brings them to main street. I think it’s a pretty compelling and revolutionary idea.

American Giant may be the best thing that has happened to U.S. apparel in decades. But while its prices aren’t Brooklyn boutique, they might induce sticker shock among the segment of American consumers who have been weaned on “always low prices.”

Local makers

This brings us back to what Patagonia’s Chouinard said: “Own fewer things but really good things.”

For me, the really good things are American made. Other favorites of mine include Flowfold, in my native Maine, for duffel bags and backpacks; Boathouse in Philadelphia for performance outerwear; Minnesota’s Faribault Woolen Mill Co., which started the year Abraham Lincoln died, for the coolest-looking winter mittens.

Of course, don’t forget your local makers, which Stay is proud to join at pop-up markets including the Harrisburg Flea, York Flea, Creatively Lancaster and Pop Up Ave in State College.

I heard an echo of Patagonia’s Chouinard (his company sells some American-made items but you have to look for them; the company provided me with a list) in a recent Instagram post by Stars and Stripes Collective, which sells U.S.-made clothing and housewares in Sister Bay, Wis.

In part, the post said, “when people buy less, but choose well – it slows down Mindless Consumption and helps people save up for something they really want to buy, but more importantly, something they love – and will take care of – things that can be handed down to the next generation.”

An approach of “buying less but better” – and, yes, sometimes at a higher cost – sure seems like a better bet for Americans than continuing a race to the bottom in an indiscriminate pursuit of ever-lower prices.

Stay on display at Centric Bank

Community, AppearancesNeal GouletComment
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We aren’t selling there, but Stay has deposited itself at Centric Bank's Hummelstown branch for the whole of February.

Our six-foot table display, featuring a sampling of our tees, greets lobby patrons. In addition, the branch's staff is wearing our tees on two Fridays during the month.

We want to give a shout-out to assistant branch manager Amber Spotts for making our month-long visit possible and many thanks to the Centric team for supporting Stay and other local small-business customers.

We have seven tees available in unisex size 2XL

ProductsNeal GouletComment
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Here's some big news: In addition to unisex sizes small through XL, Stay now offers seven shirts in unisex size 2XL:

All of our tees are available on our website, but we also try to bring a deep selection to every pop-up event we attend. If you want to be certain that we have an item at a given appearance, please send us an email at at least one day ahead of time. We’ll do our best to accommodate any request.

Stay Apparel Co. featured on Happy Valley Hustle podcast

Appearances, BrandingNeal GouletComment
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We set the bar high early on at our first appearance at Pop Up Ave in downtown State College.

That’s where we were on the beautiful first day of fall, Sept. 22, 2018, setting up the Stay big top in preparation for the outdoor urban flea.

Penn State football coach James Franklin, fresh off the Nittany Lions’ rout of host Illinois the night before, already was up and at ’em before the Pop Up Ave’s official opening at 11 a.m.

He was our first customer.

Next in line was Bill Zimmerman, an affable event volunteer who in our limited exchange struck me as someone I’d enjoy chatting with again.

For me, that opportunity arose on Nov. 30, when I had the good fortune to sit down with Bill in State College for his podcast, “Happy Valley Hustle.”

In the introduction to each episode, Bill describes it as “the podcast that tells the stories of people running their own businesses, launching side hustles, and making the digital age work for them.”

Bill hails from Johnstown, Pa., which, as I explained on the podcast, has special meaning to me because the first professional hockey game I saw in person pitted my hometown Maine Nordiques against the visiting Johnstown Jets.

Like me, Bill has a newspaper reporting and public relations background. He’s currently a lecturer for the digital PR and PR, media and methods courses in Penn State's Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications.

He’s also a big fan of professional wrestling, hence the Hustle’s prop championship belt that I got to pose with in the photo above.

I’m honored that Bill wanted to hear Stay’s story and to be the podcast’s first guest of 2019. I hope you’ll listen to my episode and check out the others. (I’m partial to episode six, which features Brad Groznik, who with his wife, Andrea, started Pop Up Ave.)

Before you do, however, I want to correct something I said on the podcast. At Bill’s request, I described our new tee, which bears a heart doodled two decades ago by novelist John Updike. I said that Updike was from Wyomissing, Berks County.

That’s close but incorrect. Updike grew up three miles south, in Shillington. In fact, a group is trying to preserve his boyhood home, at 117 Philadelphia Ave., anticipating a 2020 opening for public tours.

Thanks to Bill for inviting and interviewing; thanks to you for reading and listening.

That’s it for me. I have to keep hustling.

Tale of the tee: John Updike heart

ProductsNeal GouletComment
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Before he was a world-famous novelist, including the four-book “Rabbit” series, before he won Pulitzer Prizes and National Book Awards, Pennsylvania native John Updike was an aspiring cartoonist growing up in Shillington, Berks County.

As a 15-year-old, in 1948, he wrote a letter to Harold Gray, the creator of the “Little Orphan Annie” comic strip. Four fawning paragraphs led to a final one:

“All this well-deserved praise is leading up to something, of course, and the catch is a rather big favor I want you to do for me. I need a picture to alleviate the blankness of one of my bedroom walls, and there is nothing that I would like better than a little momento [sic] of the comic strip I have followed closely for over a decade. So — could you possibly send me a little autographed sketch of Annie that you have done yourself? I realize that you probably have some printed cards you send to people like me, but could you maybe do just a quick sketch by yourself? Nothing fancy, just what you have done yourself. I [sic] you cannot do this (and I really wouldn’t blame you) will you send me anything you like, perhaps an original comic strip?”

Updike, who died 10 years ago this month, recalled in a 2004 article in The Guardian that Gray responded with "a drawing, possibly the standard photo he had on hand with a personal comment in a talk balloon."

‘Happy Valentine’s Day’

Fast forward to Feb. 14, 1996 — Valentine’s Day — and Updike was one month shy of his 64th birthday. The night before, he had spoken at Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster and now he was on campus signing his new novel, “In the Beauty of the Lilies.” My girlfriend at the time waited in a long line with a copy of the book she would give to me.

Updike signed the title page: “for Neal Happy Valentine’s Day John Updike”


But the cartoonist in him couldn’t resist, so he drew a heart with lace around it and an arrow cutting through.

Not only are the drawing and the story behind it compelling, but Updike’s ties to Berks County and the creation of the heart in Lancaster ring true to Stay’s focus on a sense of place.

That’s why we’ve reproduced the heart — in pink ink on red fabric — on the front of our first children’s sizes and our first women’s cut.

Concluding his request letter to Gray, 15-year-old Updike wrote: “Whatever I get will be appreciated, framed, and hung.”

He typed that letter on Jan. 2, 1948.

We’re introducing the Updike heart tee on that exact day, 71 years later. The heart he drew for me remains appreciated and now is, effectively, framed and hung on the front of our newest tees.

Thank you for being a part of Stay Apparel Co.'s first full year!

AppearancesNeal GouletComment
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Having launched Stay Apparel Co. in October 2017, we had only four public appearances under our belt when 2018 began. Besides continuing to push online sales, we had a modest goal of averaging at least two appearances per month.

But thanks to opportunities that we hadn’t anticipated, we got ahead of our projected pace in April and really took off in June. On the strength of a 13-week run at Market on Chocolate in Hershey, we achieved our goal by August.

And with a flurry of activity in December, including three dates when we were in two places at the same time, we participated in 47 events across 48 dates during the year.

We regularly attended the Harrisburg Flea, York Flea and Creatively Lancaster and even helped to start a makers market at the Cocoa Beanery in Hershey. On a brilliant first day of fall, we debuted at Pop Up Avenue in State College.

The stops were many and varied. We set up shop in Strawberry Square in Harrisburg and Central Market in York. We pitched our blue big top in the middle of Cocoa Avenue during Artfest in Hershey and in the westbound lane of the Columbia-Wrightsville Bridge for the Bridge Bust that overlooked the Susquehanna River.

We sold tees on the concourse at Clipper Magazine Stadium in Lancaster and at ice level of Hersheypark Arena. We brought our wheeled mannequin, purchased at a closing Bon-Ton in Camp Hill, to three Creatively Lancaster shows held on consecutive Saturdays within a closed Bon-Ton at Park City Center.

We had a few clunker shows in terms of sales, but then again, too few to mention. After all, every show, no matter how much or how little business we did, presented an opportunity to get Stay in front of people.

Unwavering commitment

We take a long-term view of customer relations. We know that just because someone doesn’t buy from us today doesn’t mean they won’t on another day.

I was vividly reminded of this at the York Flea on Dec. 1 when a man (with his wife and daughter) who had braved the rain that ultimately cut short that event told me that he had seen Stay at the Bridge Bust on Oct. 6. He had regretted not buying from us then, he said, and came to the York Flea specifically to see us. He purchased two tees and earned my eternal gratitude.

Our big takeaway from 2018 is that people are intrigued by the Stay name — “So what does Stay mean?” someone invariably asks — our products and our vibe.

We feel like we’re on to something, whether it’s because we only sell U.S.-made products, or because of our cool designs, or because we deliver great customer service. It’s difficult to pinpoint, but we’re unwavering in our commitment to all three.

Thank you to everyone who contributed to a fun, busy and successful first full year. We are eager to do even more in 2019.

We resolve to work even harder to earn repeat business and to welcome new faces, literally and figuratively, into the Stay tent.

Years ago, I coordinated a visit to Harrisburg by former Philadelphia Phillies star Tug McGraw. Even though he spilled a beer on my pant leg and didn’t apologize, I enjoyed the guy. In a TV interview, someone asked why he was at what was then RiverSide Stadium.

“If there’s a baseball game, the Tugger wants to be there,” the Tugger said.

Likewise, if someone invites Stay to set up a table or tent, we’ll make every effort to be there.

We have a pretty good idea where we want to be in 2019, but we’re entirely open to additional opportunities. If you have suggestions, please send them to

In the meantime, we’re looking forward to our first appearance in the new year: Jan. 5 at the Harrisburg Flea, when we’ll debut a new design on our first women’s cut and children’s tees.