T-shirt company stokes Sonics fire

Olympia business sells ‘We’re Back!’ shirts, capitalizing on potential return of an NBA team to Seattle

rboone@theolympian.comJanuary 28, 2013 

Two weeks ago, when rumors were swirling that an NBA team might be returning to Seattle, Ian Bolyard sent his business partner, Dave Vahey, an early morning text, suggesting they produce a “We’re Back!” Sonics T-shirt.

By 8 a.m., after deciding to pursue the idea two hours earlier, they had 50 orders.

On Sunday, two weeks after that initial order, Bolyard and Vahey were busy in Vahey’s garage helping produce and fulfill 600 orders — 1,500 T-shirts — to be delivered today to a post office in Lacey.

“It’s been crazy, to say the least,” said Vahey on Sunday, who was busy printing a “We’re Back!” logo onto a gold T-shirt, while Bolyard folded shirts and prepared them for shipping.

The two vowed to have dinner with their wives and then get right back to work, completing a week in which they worked nearly 100 hours to keep up with demand.

Vahey and Bolyard are the owners of Media Fly Creative of Olympia, a business they launched in 2006 that designs websites, and produces videos and T-shirts, among other services.

Before designing the Sonics T-shirts, the pair designed one for University of Oregon football fans — “Chip Don’t Go” — and sold roughly 200 in the Eugene area.

Former Oregon football coach Chip Kelly has since left to take the head coaching job with the Philadelphia Eagles of the NFL.

The Kelly shirt led to the idea of a series of T-shirts for the Sonics, beginning with “We’re Back!” They also have “Beat OKC,” “Hansen Is My Hero,” and “Hansen for Mayor.” The “Hansen” shirts are referencing Chris Hansen, a hedge-fund manager who has spearheaded the effort to develop a new arena in Seattle as well as purchase the Sacramento Kings team and move it north.

Vahey, 31, and Bolyard, 28, pointed out that their merchandise is “100 percent Clay Bennett free,” a reference to the man who bought the Seattle SuperSonics in July 2006 and moved them to Oklahoma City in 2008. To avoid a trademark dispute with Bennett, Vahey and Bolyard consulted an attorney and then altered their design accordingly.

In addition to the lettering, the men’s T-shirts show the lines of a half basketball plus the Space Needle, but not an entire city skyline, which was the Sonics’ logo from the mid-1970s to mid-1990s.

Demand for their shirts has been stoked by appearances on the local TV news. An image of one of their shirts also was included in a Sports Illustrated story about the Sacramento Kings’ potential move to Seattle.

The Media Fly owners also made an appearance Saturday night at Oskar’s Kitchen, a Seattle restaurant owned by former Sonics star Shawn Kemp. They sold 150 T-shirts there, including a few to people who approached them as they were unloading their car.

Most of the orders have been delivered to Northwest destinations, although a few have been shipped to the Sacramento area. The T-shirts are sold at sonicsfever.com. The “We’re Back!” T-shirt sells for $9.99.

Rolf Boone: 360-754-5403 rboone@theolympian.com theolympian.com/bizblog

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