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baltimoresun.com

Catonsville store features unique Ravens gear, gadgets in time for football

By Craig Clary, cclary@patuxent.com

1:44 PM EDT, September 5, 2013

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Debbie Welsh is learning firsthand about what it means to be a small business owner — right in the heart of Catonsville.

Doing most of the work herself, she's used to staying up as late as 3:30 a.m. to apply logos to T-shirts for the official two-day grand opening of a her store, Write-On! Inc., at 822-B Frederick Road on Sept. 7 and 8.

The event, which features a vast array of unique Baltimore Ravens gadgets and gear, will coincide with the Catonsville Arts and Crafts Festival, which runs from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday between Melvin and Bloomsbury avenues.

"I love doing festivals," said Welsh, an Arbutus native who unofficially opened the shop in January of this year. "We are going to have refreshments and door prizes — and we are kicking off an official Natty Boh T-Shirt, 'Boh knows Catonsville.' "

The shirt features Mr. Boh, the ubiquitous Baltimore symbol that adorns National Bohemian beer labels.

She teamed with Todd Unger, who own the rights to license the popular symbol, while tweaking it a little bit with local flair.

"It's really cool," said Welsh, who added "Property of 21228" and "Land of Pleasant Living" — a phrase that went along with advertising for the beer as early as the 1950s — to a standardized photo of Catonsville on the T-shirt.

"Just to change it a bit," she said. "We both designed it and used a stock picture of Catonsville."

Welsh first became acquainted with promotional products during an 11-year career selling beer for a distributor.

In 2003, she opened her new business at home and expanded it to a small shop, also on Frederick Road, three years later.

"I started out of my house, just doing promotional products, like water bottles and safety products," she said. "Retail is totally new to me. I thought it would be cute to have a little shop in downtown Catonsville. I'm tapping into my inner-business woman at age 50."

Her biggest seller has been the orange and purple "Talk Birdy to Me" T-shirts featuring the Oriole and Raven birds.

"I was fooling around with idea for the Ravens and I thought that was so cute," she said. "At the last minute, I added, 'I'm a Baltimore girl,' because it needed something else."

The shirt was featured on Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice's Facebook page in a contest seeking a unique Ravens and Orioles shirt.

"Everybody loves these 'Talk Birdys'," she said. "They want them on pants, capris and festive things for parties."

Among the unique gadgets available with Raven logos are toothbrushes, eyelashes, chip clips, earrings, tumblers, mugs, pacifiers, a quartz clock in the shape of a Ravens license plate, seat cushions, grills and blinking purple eyeglasses.

"We have the kind of stuff that you can't get everywhere," Welsh said.

The eyeglasses were such a hit they sold out on July 4.

If that's not enough, Welsh also provides lighted drinking glasses filled with purple ice cubes shaped like footballs.

For the chillier weather, she is making custom scarves that "are going to be a biggie," she predicts.

For the kids at St. Mark School, which her 9-year-old son, David, attends, she made a custom shirt for purple Fridays.

It reads, 'Respect This House,' and has a picture of the St. Mark Lion mascot sitting on the school.

"We can put on any phrases (on a T-shirt) — nice phrases though," Welsh said. "It's like a circus. If it makes people smile, that's my goal."

The 1981 Seton Keough grad attended Ravens Super Bowl victories in 2001 and 2013 and has enjoyed more than just the satisfaction of her home team winning the NFL's ultimate game.

At Super Bowl XLVII in New Orleans, she had the idea to sell jumbo Ravens purple beads and, with the help of Tracey Wheeler, who added logos to the bling, then displays them in her store.

"I love to help out local creative people, so some of the things in here are made by artists," said Welsh, noting she offers a special section of Ravens drinking glasses, designed by Linda Lewis, and photographs, taken by Dennis Knowles and Beth Tenser, for sale.

Welsh is excited to be selling prints of photos taken by Tenser of Ray Lewis' last home game in Baltimore, a 24-9 pasting of the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC Wild Card game.

It features Ray Lewis' last tackle in the center, with photos of several of the icon's memorable moments. Included are shots of his last dance, final embrace and final play in a collage that rings the border of the print.

Noting how popular the retired linebacker was at the Super Bowl, when a vendor sold 30,000 purple T-shirts with number 52 and just the word "Thanks" above it, Welsh knows that many Raven fans' fondness for Lewis runs deep.

Tom McGrath, a frequent visitor to the shop, sported one of the shirts at the shop recently.

"She can get anything," he said. "She comes up with those logos, and she gets them sent to her. They are perfect and they are all custom made."

She also designs her own logos on a computer and orders them from China.

"They make them and ship them, and I heat-press them right here," she said.

It takes about 10 seconds to heat press the logo on a T-shirt with the press set at 360 degrees, she said.

"I try to have something for all sizes, too, from little girls to large women, something for everybody," said Welsh, who said she fell in love with bling while being a majorette for 16 years. "I love bling and fun stuff for parties."