Horses Cut Shop

We are bearing witness to the extinction of the home town hero. The woman who owned the record store and the man who took over the bakery from his parents. The Tavern that is now a Rite-Aid and the florist shop that how houses a Chase bank. While small town and neighborhood services still exist in America, increasingly they are being supplanted by a daisy chain of corporate facsimiles, leaving little to differentiate one community’s commercial experience from the next. Small Town America is fast becoming Same Town America as the independent businesses which define our individual geographies disappear, never to return. The survival of these endangered small businesses amounts to a few extra dollars a month, some much deserved press and solid pat on the back for their fearless and often generational pursuit of the American dream. When you can, America, support local awesomeness.


Horses Cut Shop
Office of the Registrar

Mayr Bros. Logging

MayrGrowing up in Grays Harbor no local company defined the era of sawdust immortals quite like Mayr Bros. Logging. The red and white logo was ubiquitous and  signaled reverence of a family run business that managed its way through boom and bust, doing whatever it took to keep people employed in a town where the value of work meant everything.

As a kid the Mayr Bros. hat my dad won on the punch boards at Chuck’s Hideaway was my most prized possession. A possession made even more special by the fact that while on my pre-dawn paper route old-man Mayr, in his tattered hickory shirt and beaten Ford truck, would wave to me in acknowledgement of the hard work I was putting in, as he headed off to the hills to put in his. With over 500 employees and annual sales over $200 million dollars in the 1970s, one would never know it. The Mayrs were, above all else, workers and their dedication and ethic proudly and succinctly defined an era of Northwest greatness and gave generations of kids something to aspire to, in good times and bad.

The quest to resurrect this Mayr Bros shirt was the genesis of the Timber Revival event and it will proudly be on the table at The Polson Museum on August, 30th and on the website soon there after.

Mayr Bros


When I was twelve, the only record store in my town closed.  Actually, it didn’t close. To be fair, it was purchased by someone with no connection to its past Comet Tavern T Shirtwho intended to re-open it under the same name. Four months later, after returning from the grand re-opening, my mom had to explain to a very disappointed kid that the new owners had simply wanted to use the name as currency to purchase the good will of people like me in hope that I wouldn’t know the difference.

Fast forward to March of 2014 and the re-opening of the Grandaddy of Seattle’s Dive Bars, The Comet Tavern in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood. Now under new and improved management, the new Comet Tavern is a cleaner, less controversial version of its former legendary self. In place of the worn corners and regulars on fixed income, one will find corporate rental packages and a veggie Ruben sandwich with portabella mushrooms for $11. Reality is a bitch and the bitch here is that without these high gloss accessories in the current market climate, it may have been impossible for the real Comet to survive. So we are left with this version. The Comet: expedient business decision.

In memorandum of one of the last, great neighborhood bars in Seattle, Horses Cut Shop is retiring The Comet Tavern T-Shirt in honor of all the previous owners and their regulars that kept The Comet in business for eighty plus years. May all the ghosts of Comet past find another happy hour to call home.

Horses Cut Shop,

Office of Antiquated Principles

The-Comet-Tavern-1 The-Comet-Tavern-5 The-Comet-Tavern-2 The-Comet-Tavern-3 The-Comet-Tavern-4

From the Beginning

from our mail bag –

Dear Horses Cut Shop,

I’m seventeen and want to start my own t-shirt company.  How did you get started and how long did it take?



Dear Izzy,

We get this question a lot. While it seems like Horses Cut Shop popped up over night, we’ve been at this for a very long time. My partner, Peter, started it all with a t-shirt company he founded in Seattle back in 2004 that sold a few cool, local t-shirts from around the city in a small, one room store.  When we met in 2007 I had a full time desk job, but I was so inspired by the idea he had spawned I quit my job and took a rickety old truck and trailer on an eighteen month cross country road trip looking for t-shirts that Peter could then sell in his shop. The business grew until 2012 until we decided that we could do better by the businesses we were representing and we struck out under a new banner and Horses Cut Shop was born*. The rest is minor league t-shirt history.

My advice to you is to shoot straight, be honest and strive to be original. There are plenty of greasy characters out there running businesses without any concern for the community they’re serving. The key is to run a business that you and your partners can be proud of and to treat your customers and partners like family. Ultimately, they’re the only reason you’ll succeed. Stay cool, good luck, let me know if you need any help and don’t let the bastards get you down.

Gabe Johnson
Head Boat Rocker
Horses Cut Shop Shirt Co.

*Horses Cut Shop was actually born as a less-than-above-board social club in Seattle’s Fremont neighborhood. On advice of council we like to gloss over that part of our history when speaking publicly.

Horses Cut Shop

The Good Side of Mertyle Street

BOBCATMy mom just left me a voicemail:

“The game just started and if Aberdeen loses I’ll just be sick.”

Normally the chatter around sport and the particular ball that sport is currently punishing is of little interest to me. Except for the chatter heard on a certain day that moves lightly around September when school is back and The Bobcats of Aberdeen High School play their crosstown rival, the slow moving and mangy Grizzly of Hoquiam in a savage football argument that has been raging for one hundred and five years.

Since nineteen hundred and seven, the two tribes have gathered each fall with perennial bragging rights on the line. Rights that each citizen carries with them like a torch for the year ahead and in the case of those that suit up and fight, until the day they’re laid low.

My grandparents wed at the age of seventeen the morning before the game, on what my grandmother would later call, “the worst day of her life” (Aberdeen having lost 62-0) My father lived his entire life mere miles from both stadiums yet refused to talk to some of “those” just because they grew up “there”. And from my mother, who filled my youthful head with cautionary tales of what could happen if I found myself “over there” on pay-day weekends or when the boats were when in-port.

This fore-mentioned here-n-there is determined by which side of a single street you attended school and received your home mail. A north/south running Mertyle Street cuts the two towns of Aberdeen and Hoquiam, Wash, in half, terminating at one end with the bank of the muddy Wishkaw and on the other at the foothills of the greatest forest on earth. And so it is on this Saturday in September, that the generations head to town and cheer the lumber backed men of familiar names, as they punish each other for growing up on the wrong side of a single street.

Maybe a bit poetic for some but for this fourth generation Bobcat, an event charged with so much history and metaphor in these heavy American times, such a thing is worthy of a pause and run on sentence or two.

I’ll be fielding calls from my mom via her rotary phone throughout the game as she prefers to stay home, on the good side of Mertyle Street, and listen to the conflict on the AM, while cursing the fate of boys too young to know what it will be like to grow old talking over and over of a single afternoon in September.

Go Bobcats.

Horses Cut Shop
Bureau of Grizzly Containment


The Sunset Sound of Music


There was a time, not so long ago, when the mere act of owning a van got you laid and rock music ruled the radio.  For this Lynyard Skynyrd Lovin’ American, the studio albums of the 1960s and 70′s represent the high water mark in American music, and during that time there was no more hallowed ground on planet earth than that of Sunset Sound Studios in Hollywood California. Jim Morrison,  Elton John, Led Zeppelin,Van Halen, The Rolling Stones, Neil Young. In total, over two hundred Gold Albums have been recorded and mastered in this humble little studio hugging the west side of Sunset Boulevard.  It’s hard to wrap one’s head around gravity of what went down in that studio when Morrison was on his game and Diamond Dave wore a set of headphones on his crotch (see below) but the audio evidence is indisputable.  Long live rock.



Horses Cut Shop
Department of Rock Worship




A Ship Near Fragglerock

If Jim Hensen, of Muppets fame, started a bar that catered to the seedier side of his lovable imagination,  he would be hard pressed to create a place more apt for the job  than The Baranof.  The Great Northwest knows no shortage of dive bars but this gem in the Greenwood neighborhood turns each and every boozy cliche into high art and total theater. Some of the bartenders have been on the scene for over twenty years which says a lot about the kind of lip you can dish and service you can expect, especially when ordering a double at six am.  As with any well run operation, the shift changes are seamless and designed to fill a need:  the breakfast crowd crawls around eleven to make room for the working lunch crowd which usually hangs around a little too long before giving way to the happy hour crowd, at which point things get blurry when the Kareoke machine fires up.  And while there’s something for everyone in the Baranof’s back room (including free soup), it’s best to pick your battles and hit the scene with a particular day-part in mind lest the pours turn the minutes to hours and you find yourself  back in Fraggle Rock at six am.

This guy took his own sweet time getting to know The Baranof and its strange ways before approaching management about a t-shirt deal. And while it took a few months to get things together, today a heapin’ lot of crisp, new Baranof t-shirts sit proudly upon the tables of Nordstrom stores throughout the Northwest.  We’re hoping to jostle a few memories out of people and nudge a few more into taking a short trip to Greenwood to experience The Baranof for themselves.


Horses Cut Shop
Office of Fraggle Identification

The Baranof

baranof greenwood

Wolski’s Tavern & Digger’s Speed Shop

In this day of the phone-it-in, check-the-box and good-enough, those who approach their craft and personal identity with thought and pride are worthy of celebration.  A mind numbing drive through the plaque laden, strip-mall artery of any minor metro will expose the alternative.  The vinyl banner that will last six months, the mail-order signage sold by category and customized in haste. These are the symptoms of a greater malaise that threatens to lull us into accepting less personality and pride for more convenience and savings. It’s a commercial cult of conformity and the price of apathy is a bit too much for this guy to bear. That’s why Horses Cut Shop makes as many turns as necessary to find those places that defy this lazy convention and choose to hang onto their freak flags with both hands in the face of the high forces of lower expectations. A logo isn’t going to make or break a business but it is a worthy indicator of what kind of experience you’ll encounter when you walk through the door.  The way one does one thing, is the way one does everything.

WolskisLogoExhibit A: Wolski’s Tavern, Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Tucked off a minor-drag, on a crooked Pulaski Street in Milwaukee’s lower-east side is a time capsule of a tavern that clings to its soul despite the odds. Family owned since its inception in 1907, Wolski’s is now owned by the grandsons of the original owner. To hear them tell it, not much has changed in over a hundred years. Still a neighborhood favorite, Wolski’s has achieved a certain amount of global fame due to the bumber stickers they give out at closing time that declares, “I CLOSED WOLSKI’S”. Also of note,  in the back, by the pool tables you’ll find a framed pencil sketch done by a regular, suspended in a state of near completion. It says a lot about the place without saying much at all and that’s what a logo and a piece of art is meant to do. Whomever crafted it did so with love, most likely right there over a beer and peanuts.


Diggers-Speed_2Exhibit B: Digger’s Speed Shop. Kalamazoo, Mich

Dan Lummis used to dig ditches before he laid down his shovel and picked up the lease on a building just outside Kalamazoo to build his motorcycle shop. Lummis takes pride in working with people who want to break free from the iron grip the big dealerships have on bike maintenance and performance work. Rightly so. The whole point of owning a motorcycle is community and freedom and it takes someone psychotically dedicated to both to make them happen in real time. One of Dan’s shop mates imagined his logo and painted it broadside on Dan’s 1947 Chevy Truck and the rest is logo history; the flag a testament to the worship of speed and the shovel a reminder of the hard work it took Dan to make his own two-wheeled way.

Don’t let the big-box, same-same get you down. Examples of exceptional pride and personality are around every turn in America, one just has to occasionally veer off the Big-Slab and slow down enough to see real people doing real things their own way.  In the end, we’re all responsible for the kind of world we want to live in.  If you don’t like what you see, be deliberate in your actions and patronage and change it. In the end it’ll make all the difference… honest it will.


Horses Cut Shop
Office of The Road Less Traveled