January 1, 2016

Keep Vermont Weird debuts in Burlington

Provided. Owners Mike and Stephanie Olson in their new store on Church Street in Burlington.

Provided. Owners Mike and Stephanie Olson in their new store on Church Street in Burlington.

Entrepreneurs Stephanie and Mike Olson recently launched Keep Vermont Weird, a retail store that builds on the couple’s online and wholesale business.
The Burlington store offers a selection of products — including T-shirts, hats, hoodies, baby onesies, water bottles, pint glasses, mugs, stickers, and magnets — in a number of designs, each featuring the Keep Vermont Weird notion.
Stephanie Olson said she and her husband both grew up in Texas, where the phrase “Keep Austin Weird” was a popular slogan regarding that state’s capital city. “When we moved to Vermont we always compared Burlington to Austin,” she said. “The eclectic vibe, great people, a little irreverent, and just awesome.” Mike, a graphic designer, created the original T-shirt design, with “Keep Vermont Weird” printed on a Vermont state map design.
“We’ve been selling our shirts around the state in locally owned businesses and online for over seven years, and never really planned to open a retail space,” Stephanie Olson said. “But we couldn’t pass up on this opportunity. It’s the perfect place for us — it gives us just enough space to do our thing, and it’s fun because our message speaks to both tourists and locals and the store gives us a chance to interact with all of them.”
The tiny store encompasses a mere 52 square feet of space, in space previously occupied by the Syrup Souvenir Shop.
“It’s basically our little walk-in-closet store,” Stephanie Olson said. “I always tell people feel free to come in and look around, but make sure not to get lost.”
Since opening the retail store, the owners have expanded their product line beyond T-shirts, and also added new designs. In addition to the original state map logo, customers can choose a retro logo featuring a star, as well as a flag logo to promote the Keep Vermont Weird message. The phrase is ultimately a celebration of local pride, and the products reflect that local connection.
“Most of our T-shirts have our flag logo printed on the back with ‘Support Local,’” Olson said. “We think all of the awesome local businesses are an important part of what makes Vermont this crazy special place. Obviously the natural beauty of Vermont brings people from around the world to visit, but it’s the people and the businesses that keep them coming back.”
Given this is the retail store’s first year — and winter — on Church Street, Olson said its hours will remain “a bit of a moving target” for now, particularly during January and February. “At this point, we plan on being open weekends, and maybe Mondays and Fridays after the Holidays,” she said. “We’ll see what the winter brings. But keepvermontweird.com is open 24/7, so you can always get your ‘weird’ fix.”

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