Friends Turn Philly Phanaticism Into Booming Business

Philly fans may not have a championship trophy, but they can wear their Eagles, Phillies, Flyers, 76ers and Union colors proudly with shirts at Bark Tees in Haddon Township.

Do you bleed green for the Eagles, cheer on checks delivered by the Broad Street Bullies or long to hear Harry Kalas’ “That ball is ... outta here!” one more time?

Then you’ll fit right in at new Haddon Township business Bark Tees, which lets you wear your Philly sports pride for all to see. Bark Tees has a shirt for every Philadelphia sport—yes, soccer included—and then some, all designs that you’d be hard-pressed to find anywhere else.

Just don’t ask Bark Tees co-owners Mark Concannon or Ben Lee to pick their favorite team.

“All of them, I like them all,” Lee demurred. “It depends on the season.”

But that doesn’t mean the T-shirt aficionados don’t have their preferred designs—like vintage Eagles insignia on pre-faded green shirts or the “bring it home for Jerome,” a 1990s Eagles rallying cry in honor of the late defensive tackle Jerome Brown, who died in a car accident.

Surrounded by 100 or more different shirt designs on a recent afternoon in their Haddon Avenue store, Concannon and Lee looked relaxed and excited about their venture. They didn’t always face the workday that way, though.

“Before this, we were selling mortgages, and we were always pitching each other ideas of how to get out of the race rat and out of cubicles,” Concannon said.

So the pair dipped their toes into the creative pool, first by selling shirts outside of a Phish concert. The gig inspired them to go further, launching Bark Tees into an online venture in 2009. They immediately honed in on the Philly sports scene.

“It was very collaborative. Mark and I were doing the designs for awhile—until we realize there were better people out there,” Lee recalled. “So we hired designers. We still come up with ideas and they pitch ones, too.”

Even fans weigh in on possible shirts. The result is an eclectic inventory that has everything from old-school references to word play on players’ names to the Philly Love statue in every configuration customers could want. Also look for Philly mascots as Angry Birds characters and Twitter-inspired designs.

As the business grew, the co-owners needed to find a home for Bark Tees. They landed on Haddon Township’s main drag soon after.

“We had looked at a bunch of places—Collingswood, Cherry Hill, Haddonfield—but Haddon Township had the right vibe,” Concannon said. “There are a lot of young people here, and our target audience is 18-40. Plus, the craft beer scene is big here and that fits in with our products.”

“It’s an up-and-coming town,” Lee added.

The men had a lot of friends in Haddon Township’s Business Improvement District director Kate Burns and fellow business owners.

“The local businesses have been very supportive. We have a lot of connections with businesses, restaurants, clubs and groups, and people will walk in to say hi,” Concannon said. “It’s super friendly.”

Bark Tees sits on a strip of Haddon Avenue anchored by mainstays but also some revolving storefronts. Lately, the bank of businesses near Bark Tees—including the coffee shop Espressit, a Zumba studio and Sattler’s H O Trains & Hobbies—has created a more stable section of storefronts. Across the street is the old reliable, Westmont Party Supply, plus the new Samaritan Thrift. And just down the block, the Westmont Farmers Market sets up shop each Wednesday afternoon.

It all adds up to an attempted revitalization of Haddon Avenue in Haddon Township, and one that Bark Tees is happy to join. Even the economy didn’t scare the owners away.

“It's been fine. The economy was already horrible when we started (Bark Tees) anyway,” Concannon said.

“So we can’t wait to see what it’s like in a good economy,” Lee interjected.

Just like Philly fans can’t wait to see what it’s like to finally bring home a championship trophy again.

Bark Tees is located at 12 Haddon Ave., Haddon Township, with a full online store at http://www.barktees.com. Bark Tees offers custom printing services for shirts and other apparel. Contact the shop at 856-240-1734 or info@barktees.com for more information and quotes.

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