Apparel brands that pay homage to a particular place aren’t necessarily a new phenomenon—Straight Outta Compton shirts, Keep Portland Weird! buttons and OBX bumper stickers have been helping natives tout their hometown pride for years. But when budding entrepreneur and Bolton Landing native Domenick Pfau wanted to wear his hometown (literally) on his sleeve, he realized he didn’t even need to use the words “Lake George” in his logo design. Locals would get it anyway.
It all started with Pfau’s sister, Sara, who was using an outline of Lake George that she’d drawn to make jewelry. After graduating from high school, Pfau got the long, skinny shape tattooed down his spine, and, sitting in economics class during his freshman year at the University of South Carolina, he got an idea. “I was doodling designs that would look cool with that design in the margins of my notebook,” he says. “I had ideas for life jackets, T-shirts…I even drew stuff for the straps on goggles—you know, stuff that you would use around the Adirondacks.” When Pfau and his friend Matthew Peterson, a fellow USC student and Bolton native, came home for the summer, they decided to screen print those designs onto tank tops. And with that, the Local brand was born.
Throughout college, the business partners sold Local merch out of the trunks of their cars. “I don’t know if we ever had more than $300 in the business fund at any time,” Pfau says, “because we’d take [any profit we got] and spend some on T-shirts and then the rest on beer.” Still, that model allowed them to play around with different designs. By the time they graduated, the Local brand had grown to about a dozen products and was so successful that Pfau and Peterson opened a brick-and-mortar store in Bolton Landing in 2014. “We were planning on doing it for the summer, and it was so successful that we went all the way through Christmas,” Pfau says. “We closed and opened up the next spring. That year, we realized we were so busy that we had to stay open all year long.”
Since then, Local has expanded to a second location in Lake George Village, and also has products—everything from shirts and hats to cutting boards and coasters, plus Sara’s jewelry—available online at iwearlocal.com. Pfau, who now lives in Saratoga, says the biggest sellers are hoodies and, unsurprisingly, decals, which have become so popular that you can’t drive north on I-87 without spotting one of the iconic white stickers on the back of someone’s Subaru. “It’s almost like a secret club,” Pfau says. “It doesn’t say Lake George, but if you know, you know. And if you don’t, you’re not a local.”
While Domenick Pfau has been busy dominating Lake George’s apparel scene with his brand Local since 2014, the pandemic brought a new venture to the Saratogian’s doorstep. Stuck at home but still wanting to be creative, Pfau and another one of his friends from USC—Charlotte, NC resident Nick Hurd—got to talking about a concept Hurd had been ruminating on for a few years. “Nick remembers that he had this meeting where a guy came in with these multi-colored buttons on his shirt, and every single person in the meeting said something about them,” Pfau says. “It ended up being that the guy’s wife sewed them on by hand. So Nick’s gears started turning.”
His idea: What if he could find a way to change the color of your buttons, or accessorize those buttons, and make it easy enough for you to change them from day to day? The solution was Button Ups, small plastic covers that snap onto a shirt’s existing buttons, allowing you to customize a single shirt in many different ways. Pfau and Hurd launched the product on button-ups.com in 2021, and currently offer them in eight colors including The Maverick Blues (navy), The Smoking Aces (slate) and The Power Moves (red).
The business world, Pfau believes, is ready for a product like this, given the post-pandemic fashion trend toward a more casual look. “Nobody is wearing ties anymore,” he says of professional work environments. “You can wear your goofy socks, but nobody sees those.” So for those men looking to stand out from the hordes of white-shirted, blue-blazered suits? Help is only a tube of Button Ups away.