A Fork in the Road Podcast: Peach State Pride
Georgia is the definition of diversity. Georgia has mountains, farmlands, and beach towns. Georgia has big cities, bustling suburbs, and small communities. And Georgia is full of people of all colors, creeds, and backgrounds. Is it possible to unite all of this diversity under one symbol? That is exactly what Peach State Pride has set out to do.
Kari Chitwood: You know, we're proud of being from Georgia. We're proud of being from the South, but we never want that to be an unhealthy thing. I think, you know, in the South right now, sometimes there's this unhealthy pride, but we we want to embrace all that Georgia has and just united. And I think that the logo is kind of a cool way to do that.
David Zelski: Pride. According to Merriam-Webster, the definition of pride is pleasure that comes from some relationship, association, achievement or possession that is seen as a source of honor, respect, etc.. In this episode, I want to highlight the fact that as Georgians, it is perfectly okay to have pride in where you come from.
Theme Song: I came from the mud, there's dirt on my hands. Strong like a tree, there's roots where I stand.
David Zelski: I'm David Zelski, and this is the Fork in the Road podcast, featuring the stories from Georgia's farmers, fishermen, merchants, artisans, chefs and others who help provide Georgia grown products to folks in the Peach State and beyond. And today, we're about ten miles south of good ole Sanford Stadium in Athens. Just off Highway 441 on old Bishop Road in Watkinsville at the headquarters of Georgia clothing company Peach State Pride.
Derek Chitwood: Really inspired by my love of history and just pride in the state of Georgia. Always been proud of wherever I'm from. That wouldn't matter, you know? You know, I could be from anywhere and I would be proud of where I'm from. And, you know, the the community that I grew up in, the high school I went to the college I went to. You know, and then the state of Georgia. And it's always been proud of being from from here. And so it's super unique. State When you go from Atlanta to Savannah and you have, you know, Lookout Mountain, you have the mountains, and the sea is just a beautiful state. And, you know, but also I grew up picking peaches for my grandfather. So I've always been particularly proud of Georgia being the Peach State. And and because of that, you know, that's kind of how I came up with with Peach State Pride, the name and the logo as well.
David Zelski: I want to introduce you to the story behind Derek and Kari Chitwood Company. This is a story that features a worried mother in law, a passion for local artists, and a former monk who left the monastery. But at its core, I think this is a love story, love for a partner, love for family and love for home.
Derek Chitwood: Yeah. So I started Peach State Pride in 2009. I was always super proud of me and from Georgia. And, you know, it didn't matter where else from wouldn't matter where I was from. You know, I'd be proud of where I'm from. But, you know, Georgia's Georgia is my home. And, you know, the small towns to the you know, the big city of Atlanta. I'm proud of it. And, um, but I grew up picking peaches with my grandfather, and he was a huge impact in my life and just had this great experience with him and was always really proud, particularly of being from the Peach State because of that background, picking peaches each summer with him. And this decided that I was, you know, going to try to create a logo for the state of Georgia. And I went home and drew the logo on a, on a sheet of paper and and kind of just started dreaming about it and wanted it to become so big. And for people to look at that and say, you know, this is where I'm from, this is Georgia. So that's the story. And yeah.
Kari Chitwood: Here we are.
David Zelski: Kari, what's it been like since the beginning with the Peach State Pride and watching this grow?
Kari Chitwood: Oh man, it's been a rollercoaster. So we started dating in 2010, not long after Derek started Peach State Pride, and I was finishing up at Georgia Tech and started dating this guy who I don't think he owned a belt at the time. My mom used to talk about that she was worried that he was a sloppy dresser. So I thought, well, that's our I don't know where he's headed, but he's a nice guy. So, you know, helps where I could kind of started out in the corporate world. And eventually it just it grew and it kept growing. And I joined the team and yeah, here we are now. Peach State Pride is in 100, I think over 100 stores across the state, and we have four stores of our own. So it's been a wild ride. But so far I wouldn't trade it for anything.
David Zelski: And you've taught him how to dress? He looks pretty sharp.
Kari Chitwood: Yeah, I think he looks pretty good. It's a nice belt.
Derek Chitwood: She cleaned me up a bit.
David Zelski: I see this logo everywhere, and I think after people see the store, they're going to start seeing that logo and know what it is, you know? Tell me about the logo itself and how y'all came up with it.
Derek Chitwood: Yeah. So I was building playgrounds for a company right after I graduated and we were doing a lot of work in South Carolina and I kept seeing the Palm Tree Crescent moon and I thought it was so neat. It didn't matter what part of the state you were in, it kind of brought people together. And I thought, you know, I wish Georgia had something like that, because the geographic or geographical diversity, because of the cultural diversity of the state, you know, sometimes it can feel a little more divided in a sense. And so I thought if there was an abstract logo to kind of bring people together, I thought it would be a cool thing for Georgia. So I came home and sketched it out and just started dreaming about it being the logo for the state of Georgia and and didn't really know how that was going to happen. I wasn't really thinking clothing like your said. I really, you know, clothing wasn't something that I was passionate about. And so I had some roommates and they said, you know, you should make some t shirts and hats. I did that and sold them all. And then I had a friend who owned Ace Hardware in Royston, Georgia, and he he wanted to sell them there. So I started selling to him. And, you know, before I knew it, a few other stores asked and I was in the clothing business essentially at that point, and I had a lot to learn. But at that point, you know, I was passionate about it and people really were liking the product. So but dove in, you know, with anything, it took a lot of time to kind of learn the nuances of the industry. And and so I did that. And and and we've been in and we've been doing it for more than a decade now. So.
David Zelski: Okay, we've mentioned the logo a few times and haven't even shown it to you. Sorry about that. All right. Let me let me go ahead and hold this up. Got that? Okay. As you can see here, the logo for PJ Day Pride is simplistic, yet unique. All right. I'm kidding. I'm kidding. Okay. I know this is a podcast and you can't actually see me. So the PJ Pride logo is a simple, swooping silhouette of a peach with a small little reflection in the shape of the state of Georgia. You've probably seen it around.
Kari Chitwood: I think people are people are proud of where they're from. They always have been. And we like they said, we wanted to do something that would really unite the state. You know, we're proud of being from Georgia. We're proud of being from the South, but we never want that to be an unhealthy thing. I think, you know, in the South right now, sometimes there's this unhealthy pride, but we we want to embrace all that Georgia has and just united. And I think that the logo is kind of a cool way to do that. So whether you see somebody wearing a t shirt or you see it on a car going down the road, it doesn't matter, you know, what what they think or believe in. We're all Georgians. And this is just kind of a cool way to unite the state.
David Zelski: In art is something you all are passionate about. Tell me how local artists have been incorporated into your clothing.
Derek Chitwood: Yeah. So we you know, we want to and want to do something unique on our t shirts. We didn't want it to just be generic or all graphic art. So we've partnered up with with quite a few artists across the state of Georgia. Um, one of one artists that we work with a lot is Rob Maitri from Albany originally and lives in Atlanta now. And he's done some really neat things with, you know, some Athens pieces that have been really cool and some patriotic things that have been cool. And then we've also we also work with an artist out of originally from Marietta named Lucy Riser, and she does some really cool landscape things and she's done some. She did our famous petches stand piece that's just been incredible seller that people just love and a girl out of St Simons named Alexandra and she's done some really cool kind of wildlife and natural type things that have been really popular. And our most recent artists that we partner with we're really excited about is Michael Davenport, who lost his hands when he was a kid and he paints using a Sharpie with his mouth and he's he's an Athens icon. He's incredible. And he did a, uh, a shirt force recently of the Iron Horse, which is kind of an iconic landmark over here on Highway 15 between Greensboro and Watkinsville. So, yeah.
Kari Chitwood: I think part of part of what we want to do is support the state of Georgia. So whether it's musicians, whether it's artists, whether it's, you know, local businesses, we're that's what we're all about. It's about partnering with local artists. It gives us a chance to highlight their work, to spotlight it, to also give people a chance to wear art some of these artists. Their pieces are very expensive, but they can, you know, wear a piece of that art on their shirt and also show their pride for the state of Georgia. So it's just kind of a cool, unique way that we wanted to spotlight our shirts.
David Zelski: Wearable art from Georgia artists. I like this because it's creators helping creators and Georgians helping Georgians.
Kari Chitwood: Yeah. So this is our peches shirt. This was by Lucy Riser. She's from Marietta, Georgia. And if you're not familiar with this stand, it's a peach sand that's between Eatonton and Milledgeville on 441. And they famously or infamously wrote peches on the side of the sand. So people stop and get their picture made there. And it's just it's a really cool, iconic peach stand.
David Zelski: So when people write in, y'all did not misspell.
Kari Chitwood: Yeah, that's really when we first released that we had a few people who said, You use spell peach control. Oh.
David Zelski: All right, keep going.
Derek Chitwood: So the next year we'll show you is the Iron Horse Tee. The Iron Horse is on Highway 15 between Greensboro and Watkinsville. And this particular shirt is really neat because the artist that did it, Michael Davenport, he's kind of an Athens icon. He, um, he had an accident when he was a child and had it. He was electrocuted and he doesn't have any hands, so he paints everything with his mouth. And so this shirt was done by Michael Davenport, and he painted it with his mouth. So that's a really cool kind of neat shirt thats by a really interesting artist.
Kari Chitwood: Yeah, you can talk about this one.
Derek Chitwood: This is done by our friend Alexandra, who's from Saint Simons originally. She lives up in the Athens area now, just the three different trout that you can catch in Georgia. The brooke, the rainbow, and the brown. We call it the cold water trio. We try to sometimes incorporate some quotes on our T, so this one's a cool one. A quote by Henry David Thoreau that says "Everyone should believe in something. I believe I'll go fishing."
Kari Chitwood: And then, of course, we have a classic city montage. We are located right outside of Athens and we have lots of Athens and UGA fans. So this was, Rob Maitri and his kind of group flag columns painted this one. So you've got just lots of cool Athens icons. They are the last resort, Georgia theater, normal hardware. So, yeah, this thing's been great.
Derek Chitwood: You know, being in Georgia, we we understand what, you know, the largest and oldest industry in the state of Georgia is. And thats agriculture. This is an ode to the farmers out there that worked so hard. We tried to include most of the commodities inside a little montage. But yeah.
Kari Chitwood: pecans, onions.
Derek Chitwood: Support your local farmers. Yes.
David Zelski: Amen to that, Derek. Support your local farmers. Indeed. Now, Peach State Pride's selection can be widespread in its appeal from shirts like this one celebrating Georgia agriculture to other ones that focus more on specific interests.
Derek Chitwood: So this is another one done by Alexandra. And what's cool about kind of what we do with, with Peach State Pride. Is we can, we can hone in on certain areas of the state. So you had the cold water trio that's really more of a north Georgia's the mountains, the Bobwhite quail you know has a rich history down in southwest Georgia and the Red Hills region. And Alexandra painted this this beautiful painting of these two Bobwhite quail it's got a cool Theodore Roosevelt quote on here. It says, "In a civilized and cultivated country, wild animals only continue to exist to all when preserved by the sportsmen."
David Zelski: And they boil it down even further.
Derek Chitwood: So one thing that we do at Peach State Pride is we offer what we call our town specific tee, and we have dozens and dozens of different towns and you can place an order online and basically it has your town name below the peach. So we'll print one up over here and show you kind of have. Turns out.
Kari Chitwood: So a lot of our stuff we have printed locally off site, here we use local screen printers but these are kind of print to order almost. So like Derek said, somebody can order one Sanders little Georgia shirt online. And rather than them having to go to a store or us having to print 100 of them, we put it right here.
Derek Chitwood: Yes, a unique option that can kind of give you an extra bit of pride in where you're from. Yeah. Now, a lot of places don't offer. Yeah. So we we print, you know, a handful of our shirts here in house the local ones, and then, you know, probably 20% of our shirts and other 75, 80% we print locally up the road in Athens. So with the screen printer.
David Zelski: And it's not just the logo and the artwork there's there's a quality to the hats and shirts. Tell me about that.
Kari Chitwood: Yeah, absolutely. I think that's been a huge learning curve for us just getting into this clothing business. But we try with everything we do. You know, we we want to be able to stand behind it 100%. We want it to be ethically sourced. You know, we try to do as much stuff local as we can, and that's not always possible. But yeah, we we you know, quality is just it's a no brainer for us. Our stuff has to be, it has to be good. If we're going to put out a logo on it, we want it to be great.
David Zelski: Now, earlier in the podcast, Derek told us the story of how this all got started.
Derek Chitwood: So I had some roommates and they said, you know, you should make some t shirts and hats. I did that and sold them all.
David Zelski: And you know that very first hat he made and sold, he got it back.
Derek Chitwood: So this is the original Peach State Pride hat. You can see it's had a lot of wear and tear. I had it. I gave it to a friend of mine not too long after I started Peach State Pride. And and we said, you know, we have sold hundreds of thousand of these hats, and this is the original one. Luckily, he came to me after, you know, a few years, a Peach State Pride kind of seeing some success and he was like, Man, I think you should have this. And luckily I have this on top of, have this on top of my shelf in there in my office. And I can look at it and kind of think about those days when I was just a young guy in Athens slinging hats and and where it's come to now.
David Zelski: So that hat is legit. It is the, your friend spends time outdoors, hot summer heat.
Derek Chitwood: Yeah. That's right.
David Zelski: I love it that it's legit.
Derek Chitwood: It was actually my friend that had this. He was a monk for, he was a roommate of mine at Georgia College and we were roommates in Athens. And he left me in the middle of our lease to go be a monk. And have you ever heard the monastery? The Holy Spirit in Conyers, he was there.
David Zelski: The stained glass?
Derek Chitwood: That's right, yeah. He was there for a year and a half. I mean, he was going to do it full time and he had that hat when he was there. And when he came back, he decided to do it. He decided not to go through with it. And he, uh, he busted out of the monastery and he brought me that hat not too long after. He's a good friend. He lives down the road from here. So we see him a lot often.
David Zelski: And this building where Peach State Pride is located, it's got a little history, too.
Derek Chitwood: Yeah. So this, uh, this building that we're in right now is it was originally a turkey hatchery. It's been here since the fifties or sixties. And, um, you know, when we came and looked at it, um, I guess a few years ago, a friend of ours, we had asked if he could, you know, find a place for us and um, we were growing and needed somewhere new. And he brought us over here and this place had been sitting here since 1996, and it was just storage and it was a mess. And and through the help of him, Duke Gibbs and Gibbs Capital, he, um, we, we flipped this building and it's beautiful now. I mean, it's an awesome workspace and warehouse for us, and we have a little team of our little group of other entrepreneurs here in the complex as well. And it's just been awesome there. It's, it's got a cool history Thaxton Turkey hatchery was was kind of a staple of the turkey industry in northeast Georgia for decades. And even my great uncle, who was one of the largest Turkey farmers in the state of Georgia, his pictures on the wall in here. It was, it was on the wall when we walked in. And the first day I noticed it and saw it and we decided to keep some of those kind of things from the hatchery. And, uh, it's just a it's a cool thing. We have people stop by sometimes that, you know, remember when it was an operation and they, uh, you know, it was a big part of Oconee County. So.
Kari Chitwood: Yeah. And history is so much a part of what we do. You know, a lot of our t shirts, they have a story behind them. They're we try to just bring in history whenever we can. Derek was such an architecture nerd and history nerd, but this was such a good fit for us because it wasn't just a new building. Not that there's anything wrong with new buildings, but we were able to take something old and make it beautiful again. And I think, you know, again, just whatever we can do to make this state of Georgia better so takes something that maybe was an eyesore or wasn't a super cool old building and make it into a coveted space. You know, we we want we want that to kind of permeate through everything we do as a couple.
David Zelski: Okay.
David Zelski: So this was here when you arrived?
Derek Chitwood: Yeah. So this, uh, when we walked in the front door, it actually looked, I dont know if you can see it on the camera, but it looked like this. All these business cars from back in the fifties and sixties and seventies is kind of how they kept up with the contacts. And we thought, you know, before we started demoing this place to save all these.
Kari Chitwood: We added ours.
Derek Chitwood: Save all these. Yeah. You know, we put ours in there as well. But that was a cool touch. The history and some of these old photographs of turkey farmers from all over northeast Georgia. And we'll have people come by every once in a while and and we'll give them a little tour and they'll say, oh, that's my grandfather right there. And it's just been kind of a neat little connection to the past that we've really been proud of. So it's pretty special. And this is my great uncle right here, Terrell Roper, and then my second cousin. This is cool too. Sorry. So this is when they, um, they had a bobcat and that was killing the turkeys were free range and it was killing a lot of the turkeys and they couldn't kill it. And somebody finally came in and. Was able to kill Franklin's terrier. Yeah, the turkey, turkey monster. Yeah. Here's a magazine cover that the Atlanta Journal-Constitution did back in 1957, kind of featuring the Turkey industry in Georgia. And I see something about the Georgia game. So probably around Thanksgiving when it says 27,000 turkeys eat ten tons a day.
David Zelski: Who won Tech or Georgia?
Derek Chitwood: in 1957? I dont know.
Kari Chitwood: You don't know?
Derek Chitwood: Actually Derek, in 1957, the Bulldogs beat Tech in an upset. It would be the first of four straight victories over the Yellow Jackets. Nothing new these days.
Producer: You can't say that.
David Zelski: Salt in the wound. Sorry. And speaking of UGA in Georgia Tech.
Derek Chitwood: Yeah. Yeah. So we're licensed to to make product for Georgia Tech and Georgia Southern and even some of the less represented schools. Georgia College, Valdosta State, Kennesaw State and Mercer and yeah so yeah yeah you know we want to we want to represent everybody in the state of Georgia and there's a lot a lot of people proud of some of those some of those schools as well so.
David Zelski: But I bet you sell a lot of Bulldogs stuff.
Kari Chitwood: We actually did lots of red and black and we're thankful for that.
David Zelski: Schools and universities are definitely a part of Georgia history, and that's important to Derek and Kari, but so is personal history.
Derek Chitwood: So this is another cool painting of my grandfather done by Lucy Riser that we did a few years ago and put it on a t shirt and, um, it was a, she recreated a picture that we had taken across the tree. And you can see him reaching out and picking a peach thing in his habitat, in his element.
David Zelski: Is this on one of the shirts?
Derek Chitwood: Yeah. This was on one of the shirts. Yeah.
David Zelski: And before we go, Kari mentioned that her mom was worried that Derek didn't own a belt. Well, it appears that little problem has been rectified.
Derek Chitwood: Yeah, so this is our Georgia AG Belt. It's a needlepoint belt done by Smathers and Branson. And we put, you know, some of the most common AG commodities from the state of Georgia on here. And really neat ode to the farmer.
David Zelski: You can find Peach State Pride products from Ringgold to Saint Simons Island, Bainbridge to Hiwassee and everywhere in between or online at PeachStatePride.com. And for more content like this, you can watch A Fork In The Road on GPB-TV or any time on the GPB.org website. That's where you'll also be able to listen and subscribe to this podcast or download it on your favorite podcast platform. I'm David Zelski. Thanks for listening to A Fork in the Road.
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