, Salem, MA

April 26, 2013

Peabody company's shirts benefit One Fund

By Alan Burke
Staff writer

---- — PEABODY — It’s Chris Wrenn’s business to catch the public mood.

Sully’s Brand T-shirts generally carry a written sentiment.

“We make things that people want to say,” Wrenn said.

This week, he caught exactly what the public wanted to say — “Believe in Boston.” But instead of making money, the Peabody business is donating all proceeds from sales of the special-edition T-shirt to The One Fund to help victims of the Boston Marathon bombings.

Over the past week, Wrenn, 37, has sold more than 3,000 of the shirts, in Boston Marathon colors of yellow and blue, earning $50,000 for The One Fund.

And that’s not all. Wrenn has a second company, Bridge Nine Records, supporting a number of punk rock bands, which is selling four T-shirts associated with those groups. They include sentiments like “Have heart. Watch us rise.”

Already, 1,000 of those have been sold, also to benefit The One Fund. Wrenn hasn’t finished totaling up the contribution from that, which will be added to the $50,000 he’s already raised.

“All proceeds are going to the fund,” said Wrenn, who alerted loyal customers to these offers via the Internet. “Just like everybody else, we wanted to do something to help.”

The response had Wrenn and his staff up until 1 and 2 a.m. getting out shipments. “We did four months of orders in one week. ... For us, a $50,000 donation is mind-boggling.”

The attacks hit close to home for Wrenn.

“I’d been preparing to go down to the marathon,” he said.

Sports are a key part of his business. He employees five regular workers and a number of street vendors who sell his T-shirts, as well as flags and bracelets, outside Fenway Park, TD Garden and Gillette Stadium, among other places.

Additionally, he’s the father of a 2-year-old daughter, so the death of 8-year-old Martin Richard, killed in the blast, hit hard.

“You have a small child. You want to bring her to an event like that. My understanding is that the young boy from Dorchester, he was very excited to go.” He pauses. “It makes me sick.”

Wrenn started making Boston-themed T-shirts (made in Peabody) some years ago.

“In 2007, I put out a shirt, ‘Believe in Boston.’” He even copyrighted the phrase. “I wanted to pay tribute to Boston’s character.”

A lot of his shirts are designed to tweak traditional rivals, the New York Yankees, Montreal Canadiens, Los Angeles Lakers, and individuals like Peyton and Eli Manning. “Believe in Boston” was a deliberate change of pace, however, entirely positive, celebrating what people love about the city.

Wrenn’s flags and bracelets carry similar themes. He notes with pride seeing in the aftermath of the bombing one of his “Believe in Boston” flags on the front page of the Hartford Courant.

After the bombings, that phrase seemed particularly appropriate as the city recovered, and he decided to create a special-edition T-shirt in marathon colors and donate the proceeds.

Wrenn, who grew up in the Hartford area, has lived in Salem for a decade. Married, he has a daughter.

He began his business in 1999. During the Christmas season, he operates a shop at the Northshore Mall. “But for the rest of the year, we just focus on our website.”