Most people have a favorite local restaurant or hangout they remember from growing up. Today, however, many of those establishments are long gone. But thanks to two Bradley University grads, the memory of several popular Peoria establishments can live on… in a distinctive new line of apparel.
Based in Rockford, Illinois, Bygone Brand was founded in 2013 by Keith and Amy Watson. The couple researches “bygone” local businesses and restaurants, and recreates their logos and designs on high-quality, vintage-looking t-shirts and sweatshirts. Their first line of shirts featured iconic brands from Rockford—Keith’s hometown—and quickly grew from an initial four designs to more than a dozen. Following the success of the Rockford line, the Watsons launched lines of shirts in Madison, Chicago and St. Louis—Amy’s hometown. Because they met and fell in love while attending Bradley, a Peoria line was a no-brainer.
Four Peoria staples—including Hunt’s Restaurant, the Peoria Drive-In Theater, Szolds and Sully’s Pub—comprise the initial line of vintage Peoria shirts. Most recently, the company featured Stage 2—the popular, under-21, eighties dance club—as part of “The Black Line,” a special series featuring new shirts from four cities with black printing on black tees. Shirts featuring Sandy’s Drive-in are also in the works, and should be ready by the end of summer.
When selecting a brand to recreate, Keith says, they look for a few things. “First, it needs to be out of business and fairly local. Regional chains are okay, but nothing too ‘big box.’” Naturally, he adds, it must be a place people remember fondly, and it needs to have a good-looking logo. For inspiration, the Watsons looked back to the time they spent in Peoria in the ‘90s, asked Peoria friends for feedback and researched past establishments as potential shirt concepts. After the Peoria line’s initial four shirts were released, they received many suggestions from locals… so more are on the way!
In addition to expanding their current lines, the Watsons are looking to expand to other Midwestern cities, such as Milwaukee, Detroit and Indianapolis. “It really comes down to working with someone who is passionate about their hometown,” Keith says. iBi
Bygone Brand can be found at Urban Artifacts on Sheridan Road in Peoria and online at bygonebrand.com.