Junkyard Philadelphia is owned and operated out of junior advertising major Dave Haller’s bedroom.
Dave Haller spawned his clothing company Junkyard Philadelphia on his 21st birthday on Aug. 24, 2010.
Now a little more than two months old, Junkyard Philadelphia is growing into a full-fledged business. With more than 200 shirts sold, the junior advertising major’s business has come a long way since Haller first conceptualized the idea of “junkyard” clothing.
“I used to graffiti my car,” the Newton, Pa., native said. “People would put pieces of junk on it and sign my roof, and then I would graffiti people’s shoes in high school.”
At the end of his senior year in high school, Haller put his junkyard-graffiti skills to good use and, with the help of his neighbors’ screen-printing company, DeMario Design, silk-screened his first T-shirt with the word “junkyard” on it. Though it wasn’t the official start to his business, it served as a catalyst for what is now Junkyard Philadelphia.
“I just wanted to try it out,” he said, adding that he sold his first design to friends. “My good friends were pissed I charged them for it, but I wasn’t making any money off it.”
After he graduated from high school and attended a university in Florida for two years, Haller decided if he was going to dive head first into his passion, a clothing company, he had to do it before he graduated college, and it couldn’t be done in Florida.
“I didn’t want to graduate and have a real job and try to start a T-shirt company,” Haller explained. “There’s a better market in Philly, and the city is where everything comes out of. I felt like if I didn’t try it now, I would feel like I was missing out. It’s you that’s going to make things happen in your life.”
When Haller got accepted into Temple this past July, he began working on his website, junkyardclothing.com, and sought help from his neighbors, Rich and Cindy DeMario, who own DeMario Design, located in Pleasantville, N.J. The couple helped him do his first run of 150 T-shirts. Though Haller pitched in his own money from working on a farm and lifeguarding, his parents helped him front the start-up costs.
By the time his birthday rolled around on Aug. 24, junkyardclothing.com officially launched. Haller took all the photos on his site, including the background art and model shots. Since the site went live, Haller has shipped orders locally, as well as to California, Florida, Boston and even London.
“I didn’t have an international shipping option on my site yet,” Haller said, “so this guy only paid $5 for shipping. He got away with nothing.”
Afterward, Haller added an international option to the site, but hasn’t received any more orders from outside the United States’ borders. He e-mailed the Londoner to ask how he got wind of Junkyard, but the buyer never responded.
However, on Main Campus, Haller has face time with his clients. He estimates 20 percent of his sales come from people who order off his site and the other 80 percent come from in-person sales.
“I started wearing the ‘Dope’ shirt everyday to class,” Haller said. “People started saying, ‘Dude, you need to change your shirt,’ but then I would explain that I make them, and if they wanted to get one too, I could sell one to them.”
Aside from his Internet presence on his website and Facebook page, word of mouth is key to Junkyard Philadelphia. Even his friends from Florida tell others about Junkyard to help Haller drum up business. The line currently consists of three designs: it’s signature “Dope” shirt – the letters of the word are positioned like Robert Indiana’s “Love” logo – his high-school original T-shirt with the word “Junkyard” written in white perspiring with hot-pink drops and Junkyard Philadelphia’s logo with the year 1989 – Haller’s birth year – inside. The T-shirts cost $15 each, but Haller said he hopes to one day lower the prices since he isn’t trying to “murder people’s pockets.”
In order to fund a winter line, Haller said he’s looking for a bartending job. Though he’s making money from Junkyard sales, the start-up costs – including the bags for shipping, the shipping system, business cards, tags and software program to make everything – added up.
Haller, whose room’s walls are covered in illustrations, is already brainstorming ideas for his next Junkyard designs.
“The ‘Dope’ shirts are cool, and I drew it, but [it’s] just plain,” said Haller, adding that he took a drawing class during his first year of schooling to fine tune his skills. “I want to make things that are more hand-drawn.”
Beyond his next line for Junkyard, Haller said he wants to purse the School of Communications and Theater’s Los Angeles internship program not only to get an advertising internship, but also to brand and network for another clothing line he plans to launch in the spring.
“I want to keep Junkyard but create something that’s not as limited to the city,” Haller said.
Eventually, he wants to abandon the “trashy Philly” feel altogether, he said.
“The whole slogan [for Junkyard Philadelphia] was going to be this crazy Philly theme, but I can already see it getting overused,” Haller said. “I want to eventually do a new line that is urban and can be preppy, which is hard to do. I just want to make clothes that show both sides of my personality that people will wear because kids wear the ugliest stuff sometimes.”
Zack Shapiro can be reached at email@example.com.