What a big year last year was for Wayne Schafer, owner of Big Fat Daddy’s , a well known beef and barbecue caterer , for this was the year he would reclaim his brand as far as fashion goes. (Schafer’s claim to fame dates back two decades to a tiny restaurant or better known as a “pit beef stand” in Baltimore and creating some dry rub, which rose to the media like moths to a flame). His debut into being a clothing designer was a happy accident.
How It All Started
Back in the day in Baltimore Schafer and his brother owned a restaurant, where a huge fiberglass bull was mascot to the to stand and had the words got beef? sloppily running down it’s side. By 1999 the bull hit the media running, the brothers were known for their dry rub used on pit beef, and this was called Baltimore’s version of BBQ. Soon customers would see this bull in papers, magazines and media and would stop in asking for Schafer to change his snorting bull shirts to include the mascot and the words “got beef?” . It was then after much publicity and preorders in 2000 Schafer’s friend Cindy started designing clothes, hats, mugs, and hoodies, for the brothers with several designs each year. Schafer soon made the words more than just words on a shirt, but part of his business.
He remembers the early days with his brother, “I think there was one year in 2002 where it was a really rainy year. We joked that we would sell more shirts than sandwiches.” We had all sorts of got beef things, some were a little crazy. I wasn’t a fan of the skateboard shorts or underwear, but they all sold fast.
When the restaurant closed Schafer took the clothes on the road, and began selling them up and down the East Coast where he sold his famous beef and BBQ at fairs and festivals. In 2004, early internet sales were conducted on a poorly designed free site by Verizon. In 2006 he bought his company back from a partnership to him being sole owner. Schafer had been very active in Social Media, and started on MySpace and Twitter early on. Tweeting about new got beef products was a no brainer. Customers would preorder designs each year and he would deliver them in several states. By 2010 got beef? items were popular side items.
“Winters were slow for us, so we made designs, cool designs, and we were picky about what kind of garments. One year we did rock and roll looking stuff, the next year skateboard, we would change with the times. For our anniversary they looked like baseball and football shirts. We never forgot the roots, so we would change it up and bring back the original bull for anniversary gear, then take him off again. We had to make sure these clothes would last, my family wears them and we work hard and play hard. We then wanted our designs larger than life, yet most screenprinters would only print in a 12” area, we had them extend to 14” and make the brand stand out from crappy lesser quality items. We worked with a local company, and there we watched our dreams turn into reality piece by piece. A scribble on a piece of paper turn into a finished product. My wife and I became apparel designers overnight and didn’t even know it. From colors to swatch samples, it takes us months to settle on ideas coming out the following year.”
Everything changed for the Schafers in 2012 when customers were mentioning how the quality of items had gone down—only the items they described weren’t Schafer’s products, but items bought from print on demand sites or off the web. “I turned on the computer one day and thought I had to do something. People were making got beef this and got beef that but they were crappy, selling for half price of mine and then my customers thought it me putting that junk out there. I realized then over time got beef? wasn’t just a slogan or fashion trend for my family, it was our brand. I was the pit beef man, I had the beef, and I had the clothes that were made with love, for all those years. So, I put a stop to it.”
Schafer went through a lengthy trademark process and had to prove that got beef was more than just a few words on a tshirt, it was his mark. Then, in 2014, their legal team worked on shutting down thousands of listings.
“I spent a lot of money and time to protect and save my brand. I was close to court several times and have hired litigators on standby. All of this takes time from actual design and implementation of my brand, but it’s a step by step process. To some, selling funny slogans on t-shirts is all they do, and good for them, but for me, got beef is not just a slogan, it’s part of my livelihood. I guess you could say I got beef with them.”
Schafer says, “Many people didn’t know and stopped selling immediately. We did offer some licensing but got to the point we would rather just reclaim the brand and so we didn’t renew any licenses. Think about how much time we took to protect it and now we have to go back and redesign it.”
The larger than life logos for 2015 contain the Registered “®” mark on them and come from one place – Big Fat Daddy’s. Schafer says, “The easiest way to flush out the counterfeits is to just sell it yourself.”
So what now? “We launched the 2015 gear in nature tones and we’re working on a vintage line. The original brand costs more because we don’t print our own, we design it, have it printed and shipped back to us, then we sell it. Rest assured, your garment meets our quality approval. The screenprinter is in the same state. If you’re wearing my brand it’s going to be something I wear. So does my friends and family, we work hard in this gear. It’s going to be well made, the screenprint is going to last and you’ll keep coming back for more. We design it and we watch it get screen printed right here in the good old U-S-A!”
Schafer’s items are for available sale and as you can see, the new logos are larger than life.