DAVID COOPER FOR BUFFALO SPREE MAGAZINE

David G Copper of The heritage Centers Foundation

David G Cooper of the Heritage Centers Foundation – A group dedicated to securing private funding to provide needed services such as educational opportunities, transportation,  therapeutic equipment, and much more for the more than 8000 Erie county residents who are challenged with intellectual or developmental disabilities.

DAVID COOPER FOR BUFFALO SPREE MAGAZINE

ON ASSIGNMENT: LIVEBETTY

Image from LiveBetty Training campaign

I’ve been working with Buffalo, NY based startup LiveBetty, an empowering tech company that allows people to create and manage their own home messaging businesses, to create images for a variety of training and branding uses. The first project I tackled with them was creating aspirational portraits of company spokesmodel Lulu Robinson. We had to find the perfect location for this shoot that looked just like the dream workspace of a successful LiveBetty member, and we found it at redFISH Art Studios in East Aurora, NY. Turns out that the space has the most beautiful apartment upstairs – white wooden floors, beautiful but simple furniture, art EVERYWHERE. I’m not going to lie, if I had my way this is pretty much what my office would look like too – except I’m sure it would probably still be cluttered with knee-high stacks of photo books and LP’s for me and my dogs to weave around just like it is now. LiveBetty head John Wolf has a very cool vision for the growing company and I’m excited to keep working with him on developing the look of the brand.

ON ASSIGNMENT: LIVEBETTY

THE SPORTS FANS – OXFORD PENNANT COMPANY

Oxford Pennant Company Let's Go Buffalo Pennant

I’ve got a really cool pennant that says “Hustle” in bold golden letters hanging in my studio. It’s part conversation starter/part reminder to get off my ass and get working on whatever project I’m trying to launch at the time. If you look at little closer you’ll find a tag on it that proudly exclaims “It’s an Oxford!” which has become the rallying cry for a young business that’s taking a prototypical piece of sports memorabilia and breathing a new sense of style into it. CEO David Horesh and Brand Manager/Designer Brett Mikoll are turning the simple and classic felt pennant into something that’s equal parts Cal Ripken and Kanye West.

Oxford Pennant got its start on the road – specifically the long stretch between Buffalo and Boston where David and Brett were traveling regularly for business while working for another Buffalo entrepreneurial powerhouse, City Dining Cards (and as I’ve said before – their Buffalo Drink Deck is a thirsty and frugal photographer’s very best friend). The pair found themselves inspired by the preppy aesthetic and eye for visual merchandising of the stores they were dealing with that rolled together sports, local pride, and a keen intuition for pop culture. While bouncing ideas off of each other over drinks one night they began looking for a vehicle through which they distill all of their varied interests into one medium – and they knew they didn’t want to make t-shirts. Brett elaborated “We decided we want to do one thing and do it really well, that we wanted to be Oxford Pennant, not the Oxford brand.”

Oxford Pennant Company "Let's Go Buffalo" Pennant

Somehow during the course of their trip the idea of creating pennants took hold, and Dave realized that there was a void in the marketplace for a modern and well-made pennant that focused more on the culture, aesthetics, and nostalgia of athleticism and civic pride than it did on a specific team. “We made a Buffalo pennant, a Boston pennant, and a Pittsburgh pennant to start because we had friends in those cities, and produced about one hundred of them. We figured that we could at least sell them or give them away as Christmas presents and that would be fine. So we quickly launched an Instagram and a Shopify store. I remember laying in bed on Christmas night 2013 registering the domain name and our timeline to launch from there was just about a month,” David told me during one of our many discussions about Oxford.

A month from inception to launch may sound crazy in this era of multi-volume business plans, cap tables, and overwrought marketing campaigns, but it’s indicative of the earnest and intuitive business that Oxford is building – one that embraces the scrappy, fight-to-make-it, mean-something-to-your-fans ethos of the sports legends that Oxford borrows so much from. Regarding their rapid genesis, Dave told me “We decided not to think about it too much, because if we thought about it too much we just wouldn’t do it. I remember sharing this idea with my brother-in-law who had just gone through a crazy period in his life of opening a business, getting married, having a child and moving to Rochester. When I asked him how he got through all this so quickly without going crazy he told me ‘go, ready, set” and go, ready, set is something that I think about all the time now. Sometimes you just have to do it and figure it out along the way, and in this case that worked in our favor.”

Brett from Oxford Pennant Company in Buffalo NY

The duo quickly pulled in project manager Pat Simons, another City Dining Cards alum, to complete Oxford Pennant’s core team. In the past year they’ve grown to a roster of approximately thirty strikingly designed and 100% made-in-America wool and cotton felt pennants that feature phrases like “Started From the Bottom Now We Here” and “Liberty or Death”, and pay homage to locales like Nantucket, Cleveland, and Seattle. One thing that you will immediately notice about all of Oxford’s designs is how minimal they are. “The people that are producing pennants use this rigid, hard, plastic feeling material that doesn’t move. We wanted something that was floppy, so we sourced American made wool and cotton for our felt, and created something that would actually blow in the wind like flag, because that to me is the iconic aesthetic of the pennant. I think that this is another one of those products where less is more, when you have a simple crimson or navy or forest green pennant with a one color print on it that says what you want it to say, it goes so much further than a complicated four color process. If you buy a football pennant now it’s going to have a helmet, and the quarterback throwing a pass, and a fan in the background eating a sandwich. I think that there’s too much in that. You really can’t look at it and appreciate the graphic quality of it.”

And there is something unique about their product, something that evokes that childhood feeling of going to your first game. Even if you were too young to follow the stats and lore of the sport, you knew that this was something formative. I think that there’s something in all of us that wants an artifact of that, something of the ephemera of the game that we could keep with us. For me growing up in Canada it was a puck at a hockey game, and if you grew up in a baseball, soccer, or football town, it was probably a pennant. Before we became consumed with facts and figures, anger about salary caps and trades, and resentment over bad calls and poor league decisions, there was something about the simplicity of the game and cheering for your team that had a much more innocent appeal to it. Oxford has taken that signifier and turned it into a design savvy medium for a certain type of consumer – themselves. ““I think that the reason the product is successful is because our customers are a lot like us. We’re some combination of hip hop, sports, hometown pride, and hard work and I think that speaks to a lot of people. Sure, it’s just a twenty dollar pennant, but we’re lucky to have customers who see what we see in the product.”

Pat Simons of Oxford Pennant Company

And some important people have seen just what David, Brett, and Pat have seen in their pennants, because partnering with other brands to create  items for their audiences is a fast growing part of the Oxford business. Since their launch Oxford has been creating custom products for entities like Burton Snowboards, Mitchell Bat Company, Ninth Inning Tx, Phish, and about sixty other companies and numerous bands. They’ve even collaborated with TSPTR on a Charles Schultz Peanuts Pennant. 

Like a lot of the conversations I’ve had with young entrepreneurs in Buffalo, the team from Oxford had some strong opinions regarding the changes that the city is seeing. Dave equates a lot of their success to being based in Buffalo, but is also wary of the “We exist because of Buffalo. It’s the reason we’re able to do this. I’m originally from Rochester, but Buffalo has become my home. A little company like Oxford can shout loud enough to be heard in Buffalo and that’s definitely helped our brand thrive. As a city, we’re so preoccupied with trying to figure out when we’ve finally made it back to our former glory. I think we’re in a sweet spot right where we are.” Brett added “Buffalo DOES have the prettiest logos in sports though. The Sabres classic logo and the Bills current logo are some of the best looking logos today, beautiful logos.”

Oxford Pennant Company CEO David Horesh

THE SPORTS FANS – OXFORD PENNANT COMPANY

THE ICE CREAM MAKERS: LAKE EFFECT

Lake Effect Ice Cream owners Erik Bernardi and Jason Wulf

Pumpkin Gingersnap Cognac, Honey + Blue Cheese, Lime Cardamom, Blood Orange and Angostura Bitters, Farmstand Corn and Blackberry, Whisky Brown Sugar Bacon, Gin and Juice Sherbet, Fernet Branca, Red Velvet?

Hell yes. I’ll have one of everything and a pint of chocolate to go. Continue reading “THE ICE CREAM MAKERS: LAKE EFFECT”

THE ICE CREAM MAKERS: LAKE EFFECT

TOM TUBIOLO

Tom Tubiolo

Tom Tubiolo is a working musician in Rochester NY, playing live in bars and clubs around the city –  just a guy and a guitar on stage making great music.

Some people are passionate about music, but Tom is Passionate (note the capital P) about it. He proceeded to thoroughly out-geek me as we got nerdy and talked about the music we loved – he became extra enthusiastic when he found out that I was heading to Seattle just a few days after this shoot took place. It turns out that Tom is a huge grunge fan, so my impending trip opened up a whole new facet to our conversation as he told me of the acts from that region who had influenced him over the years while I was photographing him. His love for music is infectious – after I made these promotional portraits of Tom I had to set myself on a steady mission to re-acquaint myself with some musical favorites of mine that I hadn’t listened to in a while.

I often write on this blog about how other artists and creatives are some of my favorite subjects, and Tom is a perfect example of that. He is a working artist who is really, really into what he does, regardless of where or how he is doing it.

Tom Tubiolo NY musician tom Tubiolo

TOM TUBIOLO

SUCH GOLD

Rochester hardcore band such gold for Alternative Press

I was on my way back from a shoot in NYC a few months back when I got an assignment from Alternative Press Magazine to create a series of images for a feature on Rochester hardcore band Such Gold. No sooner had I unpacked the car and recharged batteries when my assistant and I were making the drive from Buffalo to Rochester to meet up with the band – featured on AP’s 100 Bands You Need to Know list in 2012 alongside acts like AWOLNATION and Bad Rabbits.

Talented but also resilient, Such Gold had come back from the brink of tragedy the previous year when lead singer Ben Kotin was almost fatally stabbed outside of a party. After a lengthy recovery and with the help of friends from other bands filling in temporarily, Kotin was able to return to his frontman duties in time for the band’s full length debut Misadventures (definitely worth a listen if you like melodic hardcore).

These are two of my favorites from what I shot that day in the woods around Cobbs Hill  – you can see more by checking out the tear sheet.

Rochester Ny hardcore band Such Gold

SUCH GOLD