For the Love of Drake
By Doug Marrin
“There's something happening here,
But what it is ain't exactly clear” – Buffalo Springfield
Making a company t-shirt sounds simple enough, a conventional and straightforward strategy to promote a business. But in doing so, one local businessman stumbled into something far more complex and beautiful and unexpected.
Craig Kivi owns Golden Drake Realty. You’ve probably noticed his eye-catching yard signs around the area-a black background with the outline of a golden retriever. The artwork was modeled after his dog, Drake, who passed away in 2010.
Craig wanted to do a company t-shirt. He followed conventional business wisdom and put his logo and other business information such as website, phone number, and additional information on the design. But the result was that it looked too cluttered. Craig began removing items to see if it helped the appearance.
“The more stuff I took off, the better it looked until I got all the way down to just the dog on the t-shirt,” says Craig. “And I said, ‘That’s it.’ The shirt was beautiful just like that.”
“And of course, all my business friends told me how crazy I was,” continues Craig. “They told me I needed all this other stuff on it until it looked like a NASCAR t-shirt.”
Craig printed a few off a couple of dozen with just the logo. Someone asked him if they could have one of the shirts. They didn’t even know it was a real estate shirt. They just like the logo.
“I have a Yorkie, and this looks like my Yorkie,” the person told Craig.
“That’s when I knew this was something special,” says Craig. “People like your logo because it has personal meaning for them.”
Craig began handing out free t-shirts with no strings attached. Recipients didn’t need to explain where it came from or that it was a business logo. If the shirt made them feel good, well, that was the only requirement.
Craig’s initial two dozen disappeared quickly and turned into over 100 requests for the shirt. He offered the shirt on social media and now has requests for around 500. One high school sports team requested t-shirts for the entire team.
One evening, Craig was having dinner at an expensive restaurant up in Brighton. “In walks this guy with two-hundred-dollar dress jeans, shiny Italian loafers, and one of my black t-shirts on,” recalls Craig. “He wore it as a dress shirt to this fancy restaurant. This guy thought the shirt was cool enough to wear to this restaurant.”
“That’s the beauty of it,” adds Craig. “People attach their own meaning to the shirt. And whatever that is, I don’t care. I’m just glad it means something to them.”
Craig has a deep affection for the logo. It’s Drake, his golden retriever who passed away in 2010. Craig rescued Drake when the dog was two years old. Drake had been beaten and starved. Craig rehabilitated him and wrote a book about the journey. Every time he sees his logo, he thinks of Drake. Seeing people attach meaning to the same thing that moves him deeply, well, as the Old Book says, “Deep calls to deep.” Something beyond words stirs, and a profound connection is made.
“I am driven to give away these shirts because it feels good to see somebody wearing the logo,” says Craig. “Obviously, there’s a business advantage to it. You can’t get around that. But, I don’t expect anyone to connect it to a business. I don’t connect it to a business. I attach it to something that means a lot to me, and I hope people do the same for themselves.”
Golden retrievers are noted for their good nature. They love people and love spending time with their owners. If golden retrievers were people, they would be our favorite people.
It should come as no surprise then that it is a golden retriever causing some people to look beyond their beliefs and opinions and connect to something beyond words, websites, and smartphones. And maybe even beyond thought. And in doing so, perhaps they have instinctually found a way to connect with one another deeply.