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'Survived?' Try these shirts on

BRADENTON — A Bradenton couple is offering job seekers and those hit by economic hardships a way to share their pain: recession-themed T-shirts.

The shirts, which are being printed and sold locally, come in three different economic-related statements:

Need a Job? Me Too!

Surviving ’09? Me Too!

Survived ’08? Me Too!

“Last year, the economy got so bad everyone was just kind of surviving,” said El Bomber, creator of the shirts with her husband, Bob. “As a joke we did, ‘Survived ’08? Me Too!’ and they were gone just like that.”

The Bombers secured a trademark in 2004 to manufacture and sell Me Too! Experience apparel. They began printing Me Too! shirts for nonprofit distribution designed for people with disorders such as panic anxiety attacks.

But in January, they decided to make a profit line and tap into the job-related merchandise market.

“Hopefully, it’s designed to help people find jobs and get the point across of how bad our economy is right now,” Bob Bomber said. “It’s a way of people communicating with each other without saying a whole lot to each other.”

Bradenton-based silk screen printing company RTL Apparel is manufacturing the shirts. They’re being sold via direct sales and through clothing retailer Street Scenes in the DeSoto Square mall.

Since printing the shirts in January, El Bomber says 96 recession-related shirts have been distributed for sale locally and she is expecting another 48 this week.

“The economy-related ones are so important because they serve a dual purpose,” El Bomber said. “People can relate to one another and they’re a walking billboard for themselves.”

RTL Apparel owner Cody Walsh, after printing the survival T-shirts, suggested the Bombers might think about Need a Job? shirts because of the surging unemployment. Manatee’s unemployment rate is 10.7 percent, or 15,501 people who are jobless. That’s up from 5.2 percent in April 2008.

“I think it’s something that’s going on right now that everyone is being affected by,” Walsh said. “The T-shirts have potential to help a lot of people out, and they have a lot of meaning behind it.”

Wadai Abraham, manager of Street Scenes, says the shirts have been getting a lot of attention from customers, but he hasn’t sold too many.

“A lot of people are saying ‘Oh, that’s cute.’ or ‘I should get me one’ but they’ve never really bitten more than that,” Abraham said. “It could be just that the men’s clothing business in general is down completely.”

But Abraham says the store plans to keep the shirts, which retail for $15.99, on the shelf because they have selling potential.

“It’s a good concept,” Abraham said.

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