Salty Dog to open T-shirt store in Tanger Outlets

dburley@islandpacket.comOctober 21, 2013 

SUBMITTED PHOTO — The Salty Dog Cafe

It started with a simple sketch.

In 1987, Salty Dog Cafe owner Bob Gossett commissioned a Savannah College of Art and Design student to draw an emblem for the eatery.

The first sketch was on a napkin, and after a little editing, Gossett had what would become the restaurant and retailer's iconic logo: a black flatcoated retriever with a yellow fisherman's hat.

At the time, Gossett was selling T-shirts from behind the bar of his South Beach cafe, according to Mark Yarbrough, the company's director of marketing.

"The trick was printing on Hanes beefy T's," Yarbrough said. "The first ones were hand-pressed and dried in the kitchen's oven."

Now, thanks in part to the familiar logo, Salty Dog Cafe has sold "millions of T-shirts," Yarbrough said, and has evolved into a brand recognizable by Hilton Head islanders and vacationers alike.

On Nov. 1, Salty Dog will open its first full-sized store off the island. The new 2,000-square-foot facility will be in Tanger Outlet Center 2 on Fording Island Road and will be the company's fourth retail shop.

The company already has retail stores in Sea Pines, on Arrow Road and a small shop at the Savannah-Hilton Head International Airport.

Donald Qualls, director of retail operations, said the company had been thinking about opening a shop in Bluffton for a few years.

Last holiday season, the company set up a kiosk and sold retail in the Tanger Outlet Center parking lot, the popularity of which proved to Gossett that a store in Bluffton could be profitable, Qualls said.

"We figured it was a good time this year to open the store," in time for Black Friday and the holidays, he said.

Attempts Monday to reach Gossett for comment were unsuccessful.

Along with T-shirts, the Tanger Outlet Center store will sell sweatshirts, coffee mugs, hats, pet gear and seasonal wear, according to Yarbrough.

But T-shirts are "by far" the company's best seller, he said.

Part of that might have to do with Jake, the retriever emblazoned on the center of every shirt.

"Everybody sees their dog in that logo," Yarbrough said. "There will be people that say, 'Oh, my cocker spaniel looks just like that dog.' There's an emotional attachment."

Follow reporter Dan Burley on Twitter at twitter.com/IPBG_Dan.

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