With many East Lansing businesses facing a financial crisis due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a local business owner of a T-shirt company stepped up to help his community.
RetroDuck is currently offering a new line of shirts that prominently displays a different East Lansing business such as El Azteco or Ricks. For each purchase made, RetroDuck owner and President Luke Hackney said the store will be donating $5 to the business featured on the shirt.
“Initially, I thought this would be a good way to stay open, but then also to help out some of these bars and restaurants and businesses," Hackney said. "Because a lot of these people are friends, or they have been great customers."
The new shirts exhibit the designs that were previously sold only at the individual establishments or from shirts that staff would wear while working. Hackney approached the businesses, looking to sell these shirts online. He said only about half of the designs finalized are on the website and that there are more to come.
“We're going to be doing some shirts that are ... probably dating back to the 60s and 70s,” Hackney said.
Hackney said he believes these shirts will appeal to both current residents and Michigan State alumni that don’t live in East Lansing.
“I think that a 40- or 50-year-old alumnus can get just as excited about a Beggar's (Banquet) shirt as they can about an MSU shirt at this point,” he said. “Beggars is just as much of their memory as Michigan State is.”
Sales have been successful, according to Hackney. He said he expects an increase when more shirts are released. Hackney is also looking forward to selling T-shirts for new businesses opening up in the city and hopes to create some relationships with new people.
RetroDuck has been in business for 17 years, and they have a large archive of designs from years of working with local restaurants. Hackney cofounded RetroDuck out of a dorm room in MSU’s Mayo Hall as a college sophomore in 2003. He graduated from Wayne State University and moved to East Lansing in 2007.
“We've done a lot of themed shirts for all of the businesses ... over the years," Hackney said. "We've done Cinco de Mayo shirts every year for El Azteco for years. So, it would be cool to kind of bring some of those back around the holidays.”
Hackney said he feels a strong tie to East Lansing.
“I think about a lot of ways to help, especially with downtown in general because I've been downtown here now for 15 years,” he said.
Hackney has volunteered on the East Lansing Downtown Management Board. In 2019, Hackney received a Crystal Award, presented by the City Council to honor “individuals, businesses, professionals, nonprofits and community groups that have made an outstanding contribution to community life in East Lansing.”
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