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Feeling Nostalgic: Our Roots

Drink And Draw, PLAZA DISTRICT, PRINTING, PRINTSHOP, PRODUCTSDusty GilpinComment

In 2007 we did our very first interview with the Daily Oklahoman. I'm certain to this day I cursed myself because in it I said, "It's not about the money." Bryson Panas (a co-founder of T&L) was in the college of business at OU at the time the article was published. In one of his business classes, his professor took the newspaper article and projected it in front of the class. He highlighted my quote and said, "This is bullshit."

Maybe he was right. Running a for-profit business without a regard for profit is absolutely ludicrous. For 10 years (only 7 of which we paid ourselves), I've had a salary that bounces between fast food management and first-year teacher. Don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining. There are benefits of my job that no other occupation can offer. I'm just stating that the comment I made almost 10 years ago was made without much forethought. It was cultivated by the passion of a 20-year-old's arrogant ideas of social justice and moral corporate reform. It's a statement I can now look at and chuckle as I see how ambitious we were when we first kickstarted this business. It's a statement that both humbles and encourages me today.

Most creatives will tell you that they are their own worst critic. In this scenario that is most certainly true. My demons constantly remind me how a life lived otherwise would've been much more lucrative, how the events we've hosted were only temporary, how art is only profitable for a group I will never be apart. However, reason has always overcome these demons, and that statement rings true even 10 years later. Maybe, just maybe, I was right... Maybe it isn't about the money.

As we approach Tree & Leaf's 10 year anniversary, I am starting to become quite nostalgic. I've had many conversations about a decade of business and the significance is starting to hit me. I've had discussions about the sacrifices, the struggles, the future, and the financials. At the end of these conversations I have a tendency to reflect and ask myself, "Has it been worth it?"

I started digging around to find throwback photos I could post to Instagram in preparation for our anniversary party. While sifting through 10 years of files, videos, and photos, I am very much reminded that it has definitely been worth it.

I've posted many of these photos before, but I want to share with you a few that I think embody the mission of Tree & Leaf. I want to give a little context with each one, shout out a few folks, and share a few stories. Before I hop in the way-back-machine, I have to be completely sincere in offering my appreciation to YOU. Artists, musicians, print clients, blog-readers, store customers, neighboring small businesses, employees, interns, event sponsors, family, and friends: I will never be able to say it enough - THANK YOU!

 These are the earliest photos of Tree & Leaf taken in September of 2006. This is our first 'printshop' in Rob Bennett's detached garage. Rob let us crash on his couch, use his bathroom, wash out our screens, and drink his beer. He never asked for anything in return. Thank you, Rob.  Pictured is Chase Kerby and Bryson Panas. Chase thought of the name Tree & Leaf, Bryson built our first website and helped with promotion and printing. Chase continued on to work with his true passion; music. Bryson left in 2009(?) to pursue a career in web/graphic design.

These are the earliest photos of Tree & Leaf taken in September of 2006. This is our first 'printshop' in Rob Bennett's detached garage. Rob let us crash on his couch, use his bathroom, wash out our screens, and drink his beer. He never asked for anything in return. Thank you, Rob.

Pictured is Chase Kerby and Bryson Panas. Chase thought of the name Tree & Leaf, Bryson built our first website and helped with promotion and printing. Chase continued on to work with his true passion; music. Bryson left in 2009(?) to pursue a career in web/graphic design.

 Our first storefront location was at 8405 N. Rockwell Ave. in the back of Rockwell Plaza. We opened it on a shoestring budget in 2007. I painted my first mural in the back (it was horrible). We built canvases for local artists to paint; Erin Robinson, Kaleb Nimz, Caleb Jacks, Emma Robertson, and Jake Sloan. We had a grand opening party with performances by The Legend of Junior Sapp, Sherree Chamberlain, and Josh Roberts. It's fun to think that two of the members of The Legend of Junior Sapp (Joey Morris and Roger Eleftherakis) would go on to be our neighbors in the Plaza as co-owners of The Mule.  In our first store we also carried clothing by PS Clothing, Bombs Away, GRP FLY, Blooprint, and Dead Cities. All the clothing vendors were local, and we also began selling Montana spray paint around this time.  Kaleb Nimz was the first employee we had in this space. He was really essential in influencing my art style, and the overall direction of the shop. His emphasis on typography, graffiti, and design really influenced my print work.

Our first storefront location was at 8405 N. Rockwell Ave. in the back of Rockwell Plaza. We opened it on a shoestring budget in 2007. I painted my first mural in the back (it was horrible). We built canvases for local artists to paint; Erin Robinson, Kaleb Nimz, Caleb Jacks, Emma Robertson, and Jake Sloan. We had a grand opening party with performances by The Legend of Junior Sapp, Sherree Chamberlain, and Josh Roberts. It's fun to think that two of the members of The Legend of Junior Sapp (Joey Morris and Roger Eleftherakis) would go on to be our neighbors in the Plaza as co-owners of The Mule.

In our first store we also carried clothing by PS Clothing, Bombs Away, GRP FLY, Blooprint, and Dead Cities. All the clothing vendors were local, and we also began selling Montana spray paint around this time.

Kaleb Nimz was the first employee we had in this space. He was really essential in influencing my art style, and the overall direction of the shop. His emphasis on typography, graffiti, and design really influenced my print work.

 We continued to host music events in the store. Our shows ranged from hip-hop to folk. There weren't many venues in OKC at the time and our store was just big enough to host small events. These photos are of a show hosted by Jabee Williams. The performers were 8-Bit Cynics, Jivin' Scientists, and another performer from Tucson (someone remind me...?)

We continued to host music events in the store. Our shows ranged from hip-hop to folk. There weren't many venues in OKC at the time and our store was just big enough to host small events. These photos are of a show hosted by Jabee Williams. The performers were 8-Bit Cynics, Jivin' Scientists, and another performer from Tucson (someone remind me...?)

Around that same time we started hosting an event called School of Thought. At the time it was just to try to get likeminded kids together. Anyone involved in art, breakdancing, and music was invited. This event basically spawned what is now Drink & Draw and the School of Thought emcee battles hosted by Ronnie Harris. The above video is from the very first School of Thought. My camera and editing skills were of equal quality.

 Around 2010, we decided to rent and renovate one of the larger spaces next to us. In what now seems over ambitious, we made a good effort at running a music venue called The Arbor. We hosted some really great shows in that venue, and one of my favorite art shows ever called Rollin' Deep. We met a lot of cool people through the venue, but struggled to keep it booked. In 2011, a elderly woman accidentally drove her car through the wall and through our stage. We took it as an omen to close the venue! After repairing the damages, we decided to move our store and printshop into the space.

Around 2010, we decided to rent and renovate one of the larger spaces next to us. In what now seems over ambitious, we made a good effort at running a music venue called The Arbor. We hosted some really great shows in that venue, and one of my favorite art shows ever called Rollin' Deep. We met a lot of cool people through the venue, but struggled to keep it booked. In 2011, a elderly woman accidentally drove her car through the wall and through our stage. We took it as an omen to close the venue! After repairing the damages, we decided to move our store and printshop into the space.

 In 2011, we opened our largest printshop/store. It was a really, really, cool space and the time we spent there was extremely productive. We expanded our printshop and purchased an automatic press. We started poster printing, we hosted more art shows, and began hosting Drink & Draw. Throughout our time in 'Suite 11' we employed probably 15 people. During this tenure we also opened our store in the Plaza in 2013 (but we'll talk about that in a minute.) We had an incredible landlord at Rockwell Plaza who was very helpful in our growth. In our naivety, we thought that would last forever. He eventually sold the property, and our lease was left in the hands of an out-of-state management company. They were non-negotiable, difficult to work with, and ultimately increased our rent. In 2015 we closed our contract printshop.  While closing our printshop was bittersweet, there was a positive side to the story. We sold our equipment to 4 of our employees; Taylor Dickerson, Ian Spencer, Phil Bearshield, and John Metcalf. Today, they still run Slate Screen & Design in Bethany, OK. Taylor and John had been employed with us for over 4 years each. It's awesome to see that 'branch' of Tree & Leaf continue on.  At this time, my longest running co-founder, John Milner, also decided to transition out of Tree & Leaf. He continues to be one of the hardest working individuals I've ever met. He handled the most stressful parts of our business, but still managed to have a lot of fun while doing it. I am very thankful for his contributions to our store and the friendship we built as business partners. I couldn't quite let go of our store in the Plaza and decided to keep it open.

In 2011, we opened our largest printshop/store. It was a really, really, cool space and the time we spent there was extremely productive. We expanded our printshop and purchased an automatic press. We started poster printing, we hosted more art shows, and began hosting Drink & Draw. Throughout our time in 'Suite 11' we employed probably 15 people. During this tenure we also opened our store in the Plaza in 2013 (but we'll talk about that in a minute.) We had an incredible landlord at Rockwell Plaza who was very helpful in our growth. In our naivety, we thought that would last forever. He eventually sold the property, and our lease was left in the hands of an out-of-state management company. They were non-negotiable, difficult to work with, and ultimately increased our rent. In 2015 we closed our contract printshop.

While closing our printshop was bittersweet, there was a positive side to the story. We sold our equipment to 4 of our employees; Taylor Dickerson, Ian Spencer, Phil Bearshield, and John Metcalf. Today, they still run Slate Screen & Design in Bethany, OK. Taylor and John had been employed with us for over 4 years each. It's awesome to see that 'branch' of Tree & Leaf continue on.

At this time, my longest running co-founder, John Milner, also decided to transition out of Tree & Leaf. He continues to be one of the hardest working individuals I've ever met. He handled the most stressful parts of our business, but still managed to have a lot of fun while doing it. I am very thankful for his contributions to our store and the friendship we built as business partners. I couldn't quite let go of our store in the Plaza and decided to keep it open.

 In 2013, we opened our store in the Plaza District. Our friends at DNA Galleries were expanding into the space next door and we knew we had to jump into their old space. We had spent a lot of time in the neighborhood and knew it was a fit for us. At that time I didn't know that I would be moving into the neighborhood and marrying the Plaza District Executive Director, Kristen Vails. Fate has a fun way of dealing it's cards.  It's been 3 years since our move into the Plaza and I think it was the best business move we ever made. I have a heart for this neighborhood like no other. I love this community sometimes until it hurts. Kristen and I have invested our blood, sweat, and tears into 16th St. and I don't foresee us leaving it any time soon.

In 2013, we opened our store in the Plaza District. Our friends at DNA Galleries were expanding into the space next door and we knew we had to jump into their old space. We had spent a lot of time in the neighborhood and knew it was a fit for us. At that time I didn't know that I would be moving into the neighborhood and marrying the Plaza District Executive Director, Kristen Vails. Fate has a fun way of dealing it's cards.

It's been 3 years since our move into the Plaza and I think it was the best business move we ever made. I have a heart for this neighborhood like no other. I love this community sometimes until it hurts. Kristen and I have invested our blood, sweat, and tears into 16th St. and I don't foresee us leaving it any time soon.

The store is now fuller than ever and has a vibe that continues to support the core values we've always had; music, art, and community. At the end of the day, the products we sell are just products. I personally print all of our shirts and posters, but they are only little trinkets that represent a greater mission of cultivating creativity and community.

I'm super thankful for the staff I have now; store manager, Steven Silva, and the chump squad, Jacob Danley and Matt Hildebrand.

We'll all be ready to party on Sunday, October 9th to celebrate our 10 year anniversary. Please come hang out with us for a T&L reunion and rally for continued community growth. Please come by so I can personally thank you for your support.

Here's to 10 years and whatever the future may hold.

Piltdown Outdoor Gear

PRODUCTSDusty Gilpin1 Comment

A few months back, we had a few out-a-towners cruise through the store. We're always stoked to visit with folks traveling through, and generally give them some stickers and recommendations of our favorite local spots. After chatting for a while, Jessica told me about a backpack company she worked for in Arkansas called Piltdown Outdoor. I was very interested in their product and we swapped info.

After getting a feel for their standards and company mission, we decided that we needed to check out some packs in person. Jessica and Trey drove down from Springdale to show us what Piltdown was all about. Needless to say, I was pretty much blown away with the durability of the gear and the customer service of Trey and Jessica. With a hardy handshake, we stocked up in all available bag options they have to offer. I'm super excited to introduce you to Piltdown Outdoor! Come check out the packs at the shop and see why it will be the last backpack you will ever buy.

The Summer 5-Panel

Adventures, PRODUCTSDusty GilpinComment

We've been working with our headwear manufacturer to come up with the perfect summer hat! We are super stoked to send these out on hiking, cycling, climbing, beach bumming, adventures! The upper construction is made from linen and the sides feature a super breathable mesh. An embossed leather patch adorns the front. Pick one up for only $30!