"We Can Do Better:" The Story of Choke
Posted by Choke Print Shop
Choke is an independent Seattle company started by two guys in their little Fremont apartment. Jeff and Matt were inspired to create their own T-shirt designs after checking out many local T-shirt companies who frequently sold their wares at Seattle farmer's markets. In 2008, we launched our first collection of designs online and at a semi-permanent spot (#11) at the Fremont Farmer's Market. Like many great ideas, ours started out with a "we can do better" attitude.
But in order to “do better,” Jeff and Matt realized they needed more creative control over the printing process, so in early 2009, we bought our first screen printing press and rented a 400 square foot studio space in Seattle's SODO neighborhood. With no windows or ventilation, we sweated through our first summer producing new designs every couple of weeks for Choke Shirt Company. When we realized we had the skills and equipment to apply that “do better” attitude to other people’s designs and printing projects, too, we opened a custom print shop (Choke Print Shop) and began printing tees for local customers.
In 2010, Jeff left his full-time job at Starbucks Corporate to manage the increasingly busy Choke Print Shop. We took on as many jobs as we could. Our first studio was so hard to find that we originally delivered most orders to our customers around Seattle ourselves. That summer we participated in our first outdoor festivals, selling our shirts just about every weekend in a new location around town. Growing quickly, at the end of 2010 we moved into an amazing 1,500 square foot space just east of Qwest and Safeco Fields in Seattle. We took with us the largest Choke collection to date and a slew of customers who continued to support us.
As our online sales grew, we decided to branch out from the weekend markets and festivals and begin the process of finding retailers to sell our line. After attending the Seattle Gift Show, we came away with several new retail outlets who believed that our tees were worthy of their empty hangers. All the while, Choke Print Shop continued to grow. We hired our first employee, Brian, who brought with him an eye for design and a quick sense of humor. The three of us would mold Choke into what it is today.
After less than a year in our new space, we moved next door to our current space. At 3,000 square feet, it was surprising how quickly we filled up our new warehouse with a second manual press and our giant baby, an automatic screen printing press named Carl. To date we've printed tees for some of Seattle's largest corporations, including Starbucks, Amazon, T-Mobile; some of the greatest non-profits, like Lifelong AIDS Alliance, Emerald City Pet Rescue, El Centro de la Raza and City Year; and for local businesses large and small, including Rocket Crossfit, Eco-Movers, Sound Experience and Veraci Pizza. We’ve also printed for other clothing lines, such as E-1 North, T+J Designs, GORUCK and We Are Seattle; for a slew of bands and artists, including the Furniture Girls, Camille Bloom, Car Seat Headrest, Dust Moth; and some of the most entertaining and supportive LGBT businesses and organizations, like The Yellow Leaf Cupcake Company, Diesel Bar, Washington United for Marriage, Seattle Out & Proud and ALCU of Washington.
After a successful trip to fashion's POOL Tradeshow, our clothing line grew to (currently) 150+ locations around the US, and Choke Clothing Company is still expanding every month. We continue to release new designs regularly and have expanded our children's line under the brand Pigeon Camera Kids.
The print shop has expanded, too—we currently have 16 people working at the shop, and now offer services in embroidery, design, promotional products, and Greek licensing. The 16 of us continue the mission of Choke: presenting Seattle with quality, custom screen printed garments and people everywhere with a line of smart, interesting, comfy and colorful tees.
Thanks for taking the time to learn a little more about us... To learn even more, come visit us at the shop, shoot us an email, or give us a call. Matt and Jeff have built a business up from nothing on the principle of “doing it better,” and we’re proud to offer our customers the highest-quality print work with the best customer service in Seattle!