By Connor Beach
Starting a small business is never easy, but at 19 years old Brandon DeFeo has done just that.
With the help of family and friends, the Northport native launched Rudy’s Tees in June 2017. The company’s unique T-shirts and creative designs are inspired by the town that DeFeo calls home.
DeFeo said he came up the idea to create a T-shirt company after his family’s banter spurred many jokes “that would make a good shirt,” but he wanted his shirts to have a stronger meaning.
After thinking it over, DeFeo said, he decided to focus on some of the historical businesses that once called Northport home.
“Since I live in Northport and the company is based out of Northport, I have been trying to work with the Northport Historical Society to take the old businesses from Northport Village and design a shirt for them,” DeFeo said.
Rudy’s Tees currently offers tees featuring two shops that operated in Northport Village around the turn of the century, Otto Rower’s Dairy Store and Soper’s Pickle Works.
A question that DeFeo continues to get is, “Who is Rudy?”
Rudy is the DeFeo family West Highland Terrier who enjoys comfort and happiness, two things that DeFeo said Rudy’s Tees strives to achieve.
DeFeo is a familiar face around Northport village and, as the manager of Caffe PortoFino, Rudy’s newest tee is inspired by the shop’s nitro brew coffee.
“The coffee shirts have been successful, so I’ve been trying to design some more of those while still keeping the historical aspect,” DeFeo said.
DeFeo said he is hoping to eventually connect with other historical societies around the Town of Huntington to create historic tees on businesses in their area.
“What I plan on doing with the historical shirts is sending the customer a card with the shirt that has the history of the business, when it operated, when it closed and what it did,” DeFeo said.
DeFeo, a business management major and graphic design minor at Farmingdale State College, designs all the custom tees himself and has them printed in Florida.
In addition to historically themed tees, Rudy’s creates shirts with logos for businesses to use as uniforms or sell in their shops.
“I didn’t realize until just a few months ago that there was such a large market for small businesses that need uniforms or shirts that have their logo on them just to sell,” DeFeo said.
In the nearly 10 months that Rudy’s Tees has been open, DeFeo said his idea of the company’s target audience has changed. DeFeo said he was shooting for a younger crowd, but found that people between 30-55 made up the majority of his customers.
While he still markets towards his current customers, he is also hoping to “come out with more designs and ways to appeal to a younger crowd as well.”
DeFeo said one of the most popular shirts is a Northport shirt featuring the village’s peer, a shirt DeFeo said many of his customers have called “the best Northport shirt around.”
“Seeing what I’ve accomplished over the last year keeps me going,” DeFeo said. “I have something here, I have to take it and run with it.”
Rudy’s Tees are available for purchase at Caffe PortoFino in Northport, but DeFeo said the best place to buy the shirts is online at Rudystees.com.