Jeremiah Davis wanted to create a positive image for a community that sometimes gets a bad rap.
Working in his sketchbook, he drew the design that’s emblazoned on the t-shirts he and his twin brother Chris make and sell: a bleeding heart, with the words “Love City” printed above it in simple, graceful lettering.
It’s stylish and appealing, and it casts Schenectady in a new, more hopeful and aspirational, light.
“Clothing is the best way to get someone’s attention,” Jeremiah Davis explained, when I met with him and his brother late last week.
Love City is the name of the clothing brand the Davis brothers, both seniors at Schenectady High School, founded earlier this year.
It’s also a statement.
“We wanted to put a message out there that you can do anything you put your mind to,” Jeremiah Davis, 17, said.
One of his hopes, he said, is to give younger classmates — what he called the “younger generation” — a positive image to take pride in.
“They’re not necessarily in this for the money,” said Brian Ledbetter, a Schenectady youth leader who has known the twins for years. “They’re in it for what it represents. … They’re thinking about how to improve the community.”
Too often, we only hear about teenagers when they get into trouble.
But there are plenty of teens doing interesting, worthwhile things, and the Davises fall into that camp. Their T-shirts reveal another side of Schenectady, one where motivated and entrepreneurial-minded teens can create a product that lifts up and inspires.
“This is something that comes from them,” Ledbetter said.
I learned of the twins and their business a few weeks ago, when I visited the community-based learning center set up at Proctors to give students without access to in-person classes a place to go during the day. The twins were there, doing schoolwork on their chromebooks.
The lack of in-person school has made it harder for the Davises to sell their shirts, since their classmates are their customer base.
When they first started selling their shirts last winter, “They were swamped with orders,” recalled Ledbetter, who has coached the Davises and facilitates My Brother’s Keeper, a program for young men of color that both twins attend. “It was a learning experience for them — they needed to figure out how to fill all those orders.”
The Davises have since sold over 200 of their shirts, and are working to expand their young business.
They’d like to sell other kinds of clothing, such as hoodies and masks, and to manufacture their shirts, which have been printed at Sayless Printing and Apparel in Mont Pleasant, at home.
“It’s a good feeling when someone buys something you made,” Chris Davis told me.
Jeremiah Davis credited his mother with giving him the idea to start Love City.
He told her that he wanted to go to college, and she suggested he pursue a hobby that might help him get accepted. He pulled out his sketchbook, and began drawing. In January, he and his brother made their first item of clothing — a grey t-shirt with a red heart.
The Davises are both athletes who play football, basketball and run track, but their interests go beyond the field.
They spoke of wanting to use proceeds from T-shirt sales to benefit the community, and of wanting to involve more people in the production and distribution of their shirts. Both said that they’ve learned a lot from running their own business.
“You can’t just sit around and wait for something – you have to go out and get it,” Jeremiah Davis said.
Reach Sara Foss at [email protected]. Opinions expressed here are her own and not necessarily the newspaper’s.