Up to you and says, "A local bar is...

SOMEONE COMES

August 29, 1992

SOMEONE COMES up to you and says, "A local bar is printingt-shirts with pictures of ducks on them? You wanna invest?" You figure:

a) this individual is spending too much time as a patron of the local bar;

b) he or she has little regard for your hard-earned money;

c) you reply "no."

You would be:

a) wrong;

b) wrong;

c) out of luck.

Actually, M.R. Ducks, creator of the most popular t-shirts in Ocean City, isn't seeking investors, in part because the business took stratospheric flight before the owner realized he was astride a golden goose.

In 1982, Lloyd and Gail Lewis printed up some t-shirts for their waterside bar. They sold some, gave some away.

The slogan M.R. Ducks emanated from the tale of a slightly goofy exchange between Eastern Shore duck hunters, with one trying to convince the other of the type birds they were watching: "M.R. Ducks." The shore dialect and vivid illustrations of the peninsula's waterfowl struck a chord with tourists.

The M.R. Ducks t-shirts are seen from Assateague to Allegheny, and beyond. For all the heavily planned, can't-miss business opportunities that flop, this is an amazing story of an unassuming product that soared.

The Lewises created the t-shirt to promote their bar, only the bar now promotes the t-shirts.

Before this summer, at least, the private enterprise had been growning at a clip of about 50 percent a year, says the owner. The company has branched off with an M.R. Ducklings line of kids' clothes, four stores, a mail-order business and a line of Eastern Shore-produced crafts. It might even start offering M.R. Ducks snack foods.

This summer, the owners won a highly publicized trial in federal court in Baltimore to protect their trademark.

"If our symbol was a squirrel, I don't think we'd have universal appeal," opines Mark L. Venit, whom the Lewises brought on board to provide marketing expertise.

So if someone comes up to you in a bar and asks whether you'd like in on a squirrel silk-screen business, think twice. You've been warned.

* * *

NEWS THAT the Power Plant will be turning into a sports museum and entertainment center probably will not impress two Baltimore youngsters who went to Cooperstown, N.Y., this summer.

Their parents were mesmerized by all the baseball memorabilia contained in the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, but the two children couldn't wait to leave.

The younger one, who is an avid Oriole fan, said that he would rather be playing baseball than looking at old jerseys, gloves, bats and balls. "Why are you taking us to another yucky old museum?" he asked his mother.

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