“Back in the day, everyone was wearing band T-shirts,” Wayne Coats, a co-founder of Instrumental Hospitality, told me in an interview last summer. “Now the shift has really been repping other restaurants and bars.”
He’s not wrong. Band shirts still exist, of course, but lately, Phoenix bars and especially restaurants have upped their game, graduating from the “I got tanked at such-and-such dock-adjacent tavern” genre of T-shirt into cooler, more design-forward merch. (Not that those "I got tanked" shirts aren’t charming.) Bars, eateries, coffee shops, and even flour companies now offer not just shirts but koozies, enamel pins, artisan spoons, bandanas, and more.
And in these closed-for-biz COVID times, buying these items is a great way to support local businesses. Here's some we recommend.
Dark Hall Coffee3343 North Seventh Avenue, #3
Everyone’s favorite centrally located vegan coffee shop with a goth vibe has merch as creative as its colorful pastries and coffee drinks. Dark Hall’s online store seems perpetually stuck in the Halloween season — all those skeleton, witch, and all-knowing-eye shirts, tumblers, and mugs — and no one is complaining. A favorite of ours is the pentagram latte art pin, edged in gold and topped with black glitter — it practically dares us not to add it to our cart. Dark Hall is a sister space of The Coronado, which also has some fun stuff for sale.
The Dirty Drummer2303 North 44th Street
If it’s a plain old bar T-shirt you want, it’s a plain old bar T-shirt you’ll get at The Dirty Drummer Eatin’ and Drinkin’ Place. Though the honky-tonk-ish bar and grill reopened in 2019, The Dirty Drummer has been around, in this same spot, since 1975, and the logo hasn’t changed much, either (if at all) in that time. At the moment, the Drummer's full menu is available for pickup from noon to 8 p.m., and you're welcome to add on a classic black DD tee to your order. They got stacks of ‘em. Just call the #hotwinghotline at 602-840-2726 (or order one online).
Hayden Flour Mills22100 South Sossaman Road, Queen Creek
Given that it's a flour company, Hayden Flour Mills has a pretty varied online store. Which is good, as the mill's farm store is temporarily closed. In addition to baking ingredients, die-hard Hayden fans can also order kitchen tools like a proofing basket, dough scrapper, and even a pasta machine. (The main eye-catcher is the big red rose found on many of Hayden's products, including T-shirts, tea towels, and tote bags.) A recent popular item is the hand-crafted wooden spoons made by local artists Iron Root. These goods frequently sell out, but they are also frequently replenished, so be sure to hit refresh before resorting to bootleg options.
Little Miss BBQ8901 North Seventh Street
Whether you’re dining on the patio, getting some beef short ribs for takeout, or just picking up a quick Bekke's Smoked Pecan Pie, the Sunnyslope location of Little Miss BBQ is ready for you. But are you ready for the impulse buys that are about to tempt you at the counter? In addition to large jars of barbecue sauce, Little Miss BBQ has some neat Midcentury-style T-shirts, hats, stickers, magnets, and more. It’s as easy to snag a shirt before your barbecue dinner as it is to fall into a heavy sleep after.
Nelson's Meat + Fish2415 East Indian School Road
Next time you’re browsing the fish case at Nelson's Meat + Fish, spin around and have a look at those merch shelves as well. The double-hook logo is a familiar sight among seafood fans around town, and owner Chris Nelson has an array of hats, tees, and hoodies all sporting the design. The tie-dye T-shirts and blue-camo bucket hats are also fun.
Palo Verde Lounge1015 West Broadway Road, Tempe
If you’re hoping to let everyone know you survived a night at the Palo Verde Lounge — or that you simply support independently owned and beloved Tempe bars — snag a shirt from the owner himself. Palo has been closed since March 17, but Charles “Chuck" Marthaler was quick to start complimentary delivery of liquor bottles, beers, shots, and mixed drinks. As a compassionate consumer, you are free to add on a Palo T-shirt, tank top, and/or gift certificate to your order as well. Call or text 480-334-6567 for details on beer and gear.
Thunderbird Lounge710 West Montecito Avenue
Imagine: You’re outside for whatever reason in the summer. You’re hot. You need to mop your forehead. You reach for your … trusty … limited-edition Thunderbird Lounge bandana designed by Kyle Dehn, printed by Acme Prints, and distributed by Hello Merch — the Mount Rushmore of Phoenix-related merchandise businesses. Thunderbird gets creative with its non-consumable stuff for sale, which can all be found in its online store. There is a variety of T-bird T-shirts, plus koozies, growlers, posters, mugs, and even onesies.