Fine Print: Choonimals

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

The guys behind Choonimals didn't set out to create a clothing line.They were just having a little fun. And they still are.

Since launching two years ago, the T-shirt line has been picked up by national retailer Zumiez and multiple Columbus shops.

The distinctive googly-eyed animal sketches are the work of Chris Theibert and were originally dreamed up back when the Choonimal guys were Ohio University students. They'd go crazy with Sharpies, scrawling the animals onparty-goers like semi-permanent tattoos.

After noticing their popularity, they started putting the characters on T-shirts and launched an LLC.

Choonimals is now a six-man operation, and while most of the group still live in Columbus, three have since moved as far away as Mexico City.

"We all fell into specific roles very early on, so the transition to having everyone scattered about wasn't really that difficult," said Alex Weinhardt, who handles Columbus promotions. "Really, the only difficult thing now is to keep up communication, because we can't all sit around and talk."

Theibert's stylized designs are what makes Choonimals shirts stand out and drive the brand's success, Weinhardt said.

"For some reason, he's got this gift to draw these ridiculous-looking animals," he said. "When we first started this, we were all going to draw them, but it just so happened that Chris' are the funniest looking ones."

They're printed on blank American Apparel tees at a place in New Jersey and sold online as well as at local boutiques Paradise Garage, What the Rock?! and Red Planet X.

New Choonimals tees used to be released haphazardly, but growth has prompted the guys to start putting out collections. For their two-year "chooniversary," the fall/winter lineup will make its debut at an Oct. 9 party at Ravari Room with performances by Six Gallery, the Pink Undertones, and Josh Fitzwater and the Shambles.

The next step is getting into the trade-show scene, said Joe Goetzinger, who handles marketing. "That's where those big reps are at to see what the next thing is."

For now, each of the partners hold various, unrelated day jobs.

"The whole goal would obviously be to have this be the full-time operation," Goetzinger said. "And honestly, I personally think that we're incredibly poised at this point."