MARION – Standing at his worktable among what he described as “organized chaos,” Brett Jolliff turned a swath of leather into a Willy & Wade key fob in 10 minutes, The Marian Star reports. Working efficiently is mandatory when a small business owner’s staff is “just me,” said the Marion resident and student of the Art Institute of Pittsburgh. Willy & Wade is Jolliff’s new lifestyle brand, which he opened in mid-February. Selling year-round at willyandwade.com, the brand in addition to key fobs includes belts, T-shirts, sweats and zip-up hoodies, with more to come.
“Willy & Wade is an American brand that offers apparel and artisanal supplies handcrafted by me, all my leather work,” he said. In the spring, the public will be able to see, touch and try on the brand in the Willy & Wade mobile retail shop, a 1979 Chevy P20 Step Van that Jolliff renovated into a unique shopping experience. “The reason I didn’t open last year was I got the truck, and the truck took so much time,” he said.
“It was a struggle because I had to renovate it into like an actual store. The truck is my flagship store. So instead of being brick-and-mortar, I am mobile, sort of like metal-and-wheels. … It’s really big in California. I found it on Instagram. Then you know how you can get lost in cyber space? I found all these trucks, and I thought I can do this, so I bought my truck on Craig’s List. Then I had to renovate it. It was literally like a metal shell.”
He cut 2-by-4s and covered the interior of the truck with the wood, which he had distressed and stained, and constructed a set of wood steps that can be lowered from the rear of the vehicle. “It’s very industrialish on the inside,” he said. “It’s kind of like the vibe I’m going for. I feel like the industrial thing is very Marion.” Willy & Wade succeeds Jolliff’s initial enterprise, The Sak Shak, an e-commerce business that sold accessories he selected from the product lines of U.S. manufacturers. He closed The Sak Shak in January 2014 after an approximately 10-month run and decided to start his own brand.
“I want you to be able to wear anything with everything,” he said. “So staying basic is pretty much my inspiration because people like just plain basic items that you can mix and match with anything. I’m not a one-use kind of person. It’s definitely multifunctional, multiuse. And keeping everything in America is important to me. I mean, we’re losing a lot of stuff to China and keeping everything local in the States, even in Marion, is important to me.” He said Hessler’s Screen Printing & More did the lettering on his truck, and Edye Steffan at Spin a Yarn Fiber Garden sews the labels on his shirts. His leather supplier and screen printer are in Columbus.
“I tried my hardest to keep everything local because I want to support Marion, help Marion out,” he said. The name for his brand grew out of his mishearing a radio announcer’s reference to a song. “I was searching for a name like over a month. I was on my way to a leather market and — I never listen to country, but I was listening to a country station — the announcer said the song was by Willie (Nelson) and Waylon (Jennings). I thought he said Willy and Wade. And I thought, ‘That’s amazing. This could work.’ … My friend said, ‘You know he was saying Willie and Waylon,'” Jolliff said, laughing.
While Willy & Wade products will be available via the business’s website throughout the year, Jolliff plans to have the brand’s mobile retail store in downtown Marion and Columbus on various days through the week. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the brand’s Facebook page or Twitter @willyandwade or mail to Willy & Wade, P.O. Box 300, Marion, OH 43301-0300.