Surge to launch ‘Small Batch’ project, highlighting Madison County staples
April 17—Surge Screen Printing and Embroidery launches a passion project the first week of May.
Surge Small Batch (SSB), a new project from Surge, is a line of high-end, limited-run merchandise featuring iconic businesses, events, and people in the community.
Each monthly release, or “drop”, is deliberately handcrafted in batches of 100 or less, with each item numbered by hand.
As in whiskey, small batch refers to the careful curation of casks that blend together to achieve a desired premium product. Likewise, SSB offers handcrafted products using the softest fabrics and advanced printing methods and includes premium finishing and packaging for the ultimate merchandise experience.
According to Matt Browning, owner of Surge along with Devon Price, Surge started SSB because, like so many others in the community, they like to talk about “the good old days”.
“We want to enhance the connection we have with our customers by embracing the foundations of our community and the memories that still shape how we feel about where we call home. Lucky for us, by blending the passion for community and for high quality products just makes sense,” he said.
In addition to posting the shirts and packaging they arrive in, Surge Ambassadors do their best to connect with owners, members, or families involved with the original business/story.
Where appropriate, the project group seeks stories from the most direct source, owners or employees, but likes to hear how the community remembers them.
“While our real goal is to promote the legacy of these featured companies/organizations/events, and SSB is not a profitable project, we still want the blessing of those involved to continue printing derivative products with their brands. Unfortunately, with the nature of honoring the past, these people are not always with us. In these cases, we will use our best judgment to choose to honor their legacy,” Browning said.
The Small Batch Project honors businesses, events, places or other great stories from our community’s past that need to be told with a focus on cherished businesses such as restaurants, movie rental stores , hair salons, bars, theaters, arcades and music stores of years past that meant so much to us in the 70s, 80s and 90s.
Their first release is scheduled for the first week of May, with the t-shirt and promotional package featuring Ma Kelly’s, a former home-cooking restaurant on Walnut and North Third Street that catered to the needs of Eastern Kentucky college students. University and led by “Ma” Bessie Kelly.
Ma Kelly’s opened in 1967 and was famous for the food, the graffiti on the walls and the hospitality diners received there. According to those who have been lucky enough to dine there, “Ma” would charge per plate based on what it looks like someone can afford.
“Looks like it’ll cost you about $1.50,” they recall. “Ma” would feed anyone a quarter or more, all the same.
She retired in 1979 after running the store for 16 years. His daughter, Ann Kelly then operated the store until her mother’s death in February 1997, when the restaurant was put up for sale.
For the first release of the Ma Kelly t-shirts, Price and Browning worked directly with Tina Bowling, Ma’s great-granddaughter who said the experience of being involved with SSB was neat, and timing perfect. with the recent announcement of a Ma Kelly Fellowship. at Eastern Kentucky University.
“I love the pan around it,” she said of the design concept directed by Emilee Stites. “That’s what we made the fried chicken with at the restaurant. I remember helping make the meatloaf. It was really a family affair,” she recalls.
What differentiates the Small Batch from other products is that the project showcases the human hands that create these merchandising items – the memorabilia vehicles – from start to finish.
“We open the curtain on all aspects of production, showing how all of our products are chosen, designed and handcrafted. Where appropriate, we feature the artists and their work. Some are freelancers who may not wish not be featured,” Browning said. “We show you how each item is carefully selected, how the engravers create the screens, and how the inks are applied. We show you the finish of the garment with relabeled neck labels and stitched hem labels. We highlight the hang tags and hand numbering lot numbering and drop numbering. We show you the packaging and the fulfillment.”
As for how certain batches will be released, Browning explained, first and foremost, that the drops are organically selected by the community.
“We listen to people who grew up in Madison County and hold fond memories of those favorite places and meaningful events. We seek out what stories give members of our community the ‘warm fuzzies’ and we pursue them,” said he declared.
Depending on the repository, the story can be shared using hang tags or card inserts to help tell the story. Other times, a QR code directs people to a video recording or podcast that helps paint the picture better.
Merchandising can be pre-ordered (and potentially subscribed at a later date) or purchased in-store. Each drop will be packaged in a custom printed box with additional inserts that help tell the story. Content may include coasters, stickers, story cards, pins, buttons, and more.
The shirts will be priced at $26.99 and will go on sale in May with shipping included. If a subscription model is adopted, incentives will be included, such as additional in-box goodies, price discounts, or additional access to any behind-the-scenes SSB community discussion.