This December is our 11th December in Des Moines' East Village. If you swing by our store this December 2016, you'll see a 7,000 square foot space with coffee shop, cookie bakery, and lots of employees. Here it is in all it's glory:
But if you were one of the few folks who swung by the store in December 2005, you'd find one employee (Mike) in a 1,300 square foot space called SMASH. The upside was that you could see the entire space from the sidewalk:
Though a smaller space than now, that space was a HUGE leap forward for the company!
Mike, RAYGUN founder and owner, started selling shirts on college campuses and busy sidewalks on the East Coast in the spring of 2004. By the winter of 2004, it became apparent that selling stuff outside in December sucks. He moved back to Iowa, set up a screen printing shop in his parents' basement in early 2004, then opened SMASH at East 4th and Locust in the fall of 2005.
Since then, it has been slow and steady progress (mostly). Mike was SMASH's sole employee from 2005 to the summer of 2007. So if you bought a shirt from the store in those days, Mike not only designed it, but printed it and sold it to you (or shipped it to you)!
By 2008, there were a total of 4 employees.
In 2009, we changed the name from SMASH to RAYGUN and spun the custom printing side off, 8/7 CENTRAL (still across Grand Ave from us in Des Moines).
It is crazy when people say, "I shopped there when it was SMASH," because it seemed like so few people shopped there! Things grow slowly, though. We don't have investors or a board or stock, so can only grow with the help of the communities we're in! Though lots changes, lots stays the same. Mike is still here, we still print t-shirts and still regularly think we're going out of business for good!
With 2016 ending, we're looking back at 2005 to 2009. The good old days. Simpler times. When America was fighting two wars and headed toward financial catastrophe ..........
Mike selling on UPenn's campus and with friends in Union Square in New York.
*those were the days of political harmony!
Mike moves back into his parents' house in Van Meter, moves back out of his parents' house, then the original store opens in Des Moines' East Village!
*not a lot of branding consistency in those days! look at all those fonts.
Almost run out of money! Then keep going...
*that was a tough spring. by March, there was only $2,917.14 left in the bank. when you're inside something like this, you realize how precarious it all can be.
Hire first employees. A major leap forward! We felt like a real company.
Obama and Huckabee win the Iowa Caucuses, SMASH expands, and we start a love affair with a certain block font. #StillTogether
*our first national news spot was on C-SPAN. they were in town for the 2008 Caucuses and shot a short thing about the store.
*couches seemed like a big leap forward when we doubled the size of the store, taking nearly 3,000 square feet at East 4th and Locust.
*pre raygun-logo, the 1989 Dodge Omni Turbo was "our thing." it never really took off.
*turned out to not be the best time to finance company expansion plans! but if we don't nearly run out of money every-so-often, where will the excitement come from?
Name change and split with 8/7 CENTRAL.
*December 2009: all 4 employees and someone else's dog.