Where’d You Get That?

Middle Earth sells Ann Arbor Ts and totes designed just for their shop
Design on T-shirt sold at Middle Earth on South University.

Design on T-shirts and tote bags sold at Middle Earth on South University.

One fine early autumn day this week, The Chronicle strolled into Middle Earth looking for anything Ann Arborish. We had come to the right place.

Just this summer, the iconic South U shop started selling T-shirts and tote bags with an Ann Arbor design they’d come up with themselves, and had printed down the street at Underground Printing. The items were in response to demand, says store manager Hope Meadows.

During the summer art fairs, she said, shoppers would come into Middle Earth looking for something distinctly Ann Arbor – and not with the ubiquitous University of Michigan logo. Not having anything to offer and not wanting to lose those potential sales, they decided to make their own Ann Arbor-centric line.

That’s why the “Ann Arbor for Obama” bumper stickers were created, too, and pins with sayings like “I’d rather be in Ann Arbor.”

Those and other pins – as well as greeting cards and magnets – are made by Meadows in her second business, Minds Eye Design. She started out in 2002 just making cards, using images clipped from old magazines and adding her own cheeky commentary.

Hope Meadows, Middle Earth store manager and owner of Mind's Eye Designs.

Hope Meadows, Middle Earth store manager and owner of Minds Eye Design.

Middle Earth started carrying her cards in 2005 – they’re also sold in stores nationwide. Then just over two years ago, Meadows was in the store showing owner Cynthia Shevel her newest wares. Shevel said she was looking for a store manager, and ultimately hired her for that job.

That gives Meadows a great vantage point from which to do market research. And it’s one reason why she expanded her own product line earlier this year to include magnets and buttons – she noticed students were buying those kinds of things.

Meadows now uses the store as a kind of test market to see what sells. In addition to her vintage and Ann Arbor designs, the ones with an off-color international flavor – “Feckin’ Brilliant” and “Kiss My Arse,” among others – are popular.

They try to go local when they can, Meadows says. They buy many of their other T-shirts from Adrian’s T-Shirt Printery, a business located next to the St. Vincent de Paul store on Ann Arbor’s north side.

“I wish there were more options for local,” she says.

Middle Earth

Motto: “Harming only the humorless since 1967″

Where: 1209 S. University Ave., Ann Arbor

Hours: Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. (open til 8 p.m. on Friday); Sunday, noon to 6 p.m.

Phone: 734.769.1488

Localized pins and bumper stickers sold at Middle Earth.

Localized buttons and bumper stickers sold at Middle Earth.

Section: Business

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