On a Tuesday in July, Johnny Bench sat down in front of a microphone in the stock room of the Hyde Park Cincy Shirts store. He proceeded to have what the other participants pointedly call, not an interview, but a conversation. Today that conversation is available for download as part of the Cincy Shirts Podcast. Yes, you can listen to it right now. And you should, because Bench has some great stories to tell.
That conversation is one of 38 (and counting) the guys from Cincy Shirts have had with interesting folks from around the city. They started in February with Thane Maynard of the Cincinnati Zoo. Since then, they’ve conversed with the likes of Kevin Wallace of the American Sign Museum, Jonathan Gandolf of Braxton Brewing, Cashmere Wright of UC basketball fame, Dan Smith of Haunted Cincinnati Tours, Molly Wellman of Wellman’s Brands, and Jimmy McLaughlin of FC Cincinnati.
The podcasts are indeed highly conversational. There aren’t formal questions. There aren’t polished answers. It’s more like Cincinnati-themed story time, which gives both guests and hosts the freedom to talk about things you never would have learned otherwise. Listening in, you feel as if you’re peaking behind the scenes of the city you know and love.
Now, you may be wondering why a shirt brand puts out a podcast. But it gets more unusual than that. Cincy Shirts has a blog too, and it’s as enlightening as it is enjoyable to read. Yes, there are regular updates on the brand’s clothing lines. Interspersed among them, however, are entries on local history, local oddities, and memes only locals will get. (“How Do YOU Cheese Coney?”)
Why? Ask owners Josh Sneed and Darin Overholser and you’ll realize neither the podcast nor the blog represent significant departures from what they’ve always done with their shirt designs.
Sneed, a local comedian who tours nationally, and Overholser, a retired stand-up comic with an artist’s pedigree, started the company as “Look At Me Shirts” in 2005. It was funny and pop-culture focused, much as it is today. But it wasn’t Cincinnati-specific until 2008, when their “Even God Hates the Steelers” shirt went viral and they realized the value of a good local joke. Then Cincy Shirts was born.
“We built our following by setting up our booth around town at events. We’d go to Reds games and pass out promo cards. We were social media junkies,” says Overholser. “If something newsworthy took place, we were right here to make a shirt about it. We would rely on shares and retweets instead of a marketing budget.”
Retail locations soon followed in Over-The-Rhine, Hyde Park, and Loveland. The Over-The-Rhine location recently moved to be closer to the foot traffic of Main Street.
Still, they haven't abandoned the Web 2.0 strategy. Everything they do is about fostering a conversation. Ideally, each shirt functions as both a starting point and a punchline. But in seeking new points of entry—new ways of getting that conversation going—the guys behind Cincy Shirts have naturally sought to diversify their offerings.
“Cincinnatians enjoy Cincinnati!” Overholser says. “That is really what it comes down to. There is so much history and local nostalgia that people are hungry to learn about. Cincy Shirts is just here to give people content, whether it’s on social media or a t-shirt hanging in their closet.”
Hence the Cincy Shirts podcast, where weekly you can listen to Sneed and Overholser converse with Cincinnati's most interesting people. They're fast entering into that class themselves.
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Cincy Shirts' new Over-The-Rhine storefront is located at 1301 Main Street (45202).