By Joshua G. Thomas
While traveling across the country, Falls Church residents Mary Anne and Andrew Painter were struck by small t-shirt companies promoting civic pride with locally-focused apparel.
The more they saw, the more the couple became enamored by the concept.
So in December 2016, the Painters launched Falls City Threads, a t-shirt company designed to celebrate The Little City and its unique community.
In only a few short weeks the shirts have become an in-demand product, selling nearly 100 units at the rollout.
At first, the couple made a few shirts just for themselves. But after neighbors saw their favorite local landmarks emblazoned on these shirts, the Painters realized they were on to something.
“We’d be over at Dogwood (Tavern) and hear people whispering,” Andrew says. “And we go to the 5K every year and people just grab up those shirts just to have something that says ‘Falls Church.’ ”
With that in mind, the Painters set out to not only capture the pride of Falls Church, but also to have the community reflected in the quality of the product. They explored the area in search of images that would resonate with local residents, eventually whittling down hundreds of options to just a few that were made into designs.
Local sights like the corner of Virginia and Broad Street, the Cherry Hill Farmhouse and State Theatre grace the front of their tees in a minimalist monochrome. The pair looks for “gritty, urban images but still accurate depictions of what this place is,” Andrew says. “Things you have to be ‘in the know’ to appreciate.”
Everything the Painters do with Falls City Threads comes on top of their day jobs — Andrew Andrew as a zoning and land use lawyer, Mary Anne as a pediatric nurse.
Barbara Cram, president of the board of directors for Falls Church Arts, is excited about the new company and what it will bring to the area.
“They have taken what’s iconic to the city,” Cram says, “and made it hip-looking and more contemporary.”
At the launch, Cram, an early advisor and supporter of the Painters, observed that the Falls City Threads were a hot item, even purchasing several as Christmas gifts for her family.
“Every five to 10 years something really catches on,” Cram says. “We used to have books, clocks, Monopoly — now it’s these shirts.”
It was the support from people like Cram and the Falls Church Chamber of Commerce (on which Andrew is a board member) that encouraged the couple to get the enterprise off the ground. But starting a new business as a young couple with careers and three children under four is no easy task.
“Finding enough time in the day to run a full business – there just aren’t enough hours in the day,” Mary Anne says.
On New Year’s Eve, the Painters got their first chance to market their clothing to the broader Falls Church community at the Watch Night festivities. Despite the cold, the young company reported excellent sales and positive feedback on their products, which range from $20 toddler tees to $45 sweatshirts.
Mayor David Tarter bought a shirt, Andrew recalls, and Councilmember Marybeth Connelly told the couple that her son — who had received one of their shirts as a gift — said his shirt was “by far” the best gift he had received.
Children, adults, elderly folks — all of them dug Falls City Threads.
Eventually, the couple plans to expand with more clothing options: youth sizes, increased sweatshirt options and tank tops. iPhone covers and prints of the graphics may be down the pipeline as well.
You can buy Falls City Threads on Etsy at etsy.com/shop/FallsCityThreads and at local retailers Art and Fame of Falls Church, Society Hill Designs and Stylish Patina.