August 29, 2008
We interview Thomas Romer of Chop Shop.
TM: When did you decide that t-shirts was your thing?
TR: When we saw how much fun threadless was having. We also always wanted to open a “shop“ side of the Chopping Block since 1997 and we just saw how tees were hot and were also easier to produce and offer for sale. we want to make other things like toys, etc… but for now tees are a great way to start.
TM: I checked out your other site, The Chopping Block. Could you explain what that’s all about?
TR: We make websites. The shop came from the block. We worked with lots of big names, but the ones people get most excited about are ‘They Might Be Giants’ and ‘Phish’.
TM: How long have you been in the t-shirt biz? And what have you learned?
TR: As stated above, about 1.5 years now. I realized that all you need is one to do well… after that everything else sells better as well.
TM: Which of your shirts is your absolute favorite?
TR: ‘weRobot’… everyone else’s too. ‘Sir Freelancelot’ is awesome as well.
TM: What does each member of Chop Shop team contribute?
TR: Illustration, management… getting envelopes from the post office.
TM: Where do you get your inspiration from when it comes to designing t-shirts?
TR: Mostly from geekery or sci-fi pop culture. Essentially stuff from our youth and growing up in the late 70’s and early 80’s.
TM: I’m guessing your big fans of Star Wars. What’s your favorite episode?
TR: Empire is a film…while A New Hope is hard to beat due to the obsessive impact it had on at least 3 years of my childhood. Everything was centered around star wars from 77-80 for me.
TM: What would you say your niche is and what has been your best marketing vehicle in targeting that audience?
TR: Our niche has been pop-culture references that appeal to nerds and geeks just like us. Originally we wanted to focus on the design-nerd crowd and you can see that in the portfolio of designs. but that later changed to concepts less about design and being designers to the things that designers like which also happen to appeal to wider audiences. I think nerd-appeal will always be a part of what we are focusing on.
The nerd crowd is diverse though. I consider people who track sports stats nerds too. really… how do they get away with not being called nerds, just because its sports?
TM: What’s in the works for the future of Chop Shop/ Chopping Block?
TR: Toys and a music CD. There are a whole bunch of songs written about Chop Shop and Chopping Block. Sure they are all by They Might Be Giants… but who better? The Beatles broke up in 1970 remember.
TM: What tips could you give to others trying to get into the t-shirt biz?
TR: Don’t do anything with Bruce Lee in it or those “draw Zippy” characters from the art school you used to see in TV Guide. I have been told.
For more info on Chop Shop, check out www.chopshopstore.com