by Donalevan Maines
Joey Garza and Jaime Loera are friends, not lovers, but they still make beautiful music—er, T-shirts—together. Garza has a boyfriend who loves hanging out with Loera, while Loera says that if any of his suitors don’t like his friendship with Garza, “Then it’s ’bye!”
The pair have been BFFs since meeting at Texas A&M University in Kingsville. “He was my first gay friend,” says Loera. “The first gay person I knew was Joey.”
Last January, the Kingsville transplants launched their small apparel business, Joey & Jaime, decorating T-shirts and with images of the Astrodome and a bridge over Buffalo Bayou.
Seven years ago, Garza moved to Houston, where his grandmother was treated for ovarian cancer at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center. Her condition helped inspire Garza, who had studied biology, to pursue graduate studies at the University of Houston College of Pharmacy.
His family has a long-standing affection for the city. “My grandpa was a huge fan of the Astros, so every year we would take a trip from Kingsville to watch them play in the Astrodome,” he says. “Moving here brought back such fond memories.”
Loera, who followed a year later, agrees. “One of my best memories is going to Astroworld. It was fun!” However, he concedes, “One of my worst memories was being stuck in traffic. I didn’t like that.”
“Our company’s slogan is ‘Bringing Houston together one tee at a time,’” adds Garza, who feels that being small-town boys who moved to the Big City makes him and Loera especially appreciative of Houston.
“It’s the fourth-largest city in the United States, but it’s really a bunch of little neighborhoods,” says Loera, who filled one design, called H-Town, with the tributes to Montrose, Hyde Park, and the Heights, as well as Afton Oaks, Bellaire, Buffalo Bayou, EaDo, Fifth Ward, Galleria, Medical Center, Memorial Park, Meyerland, Midtown, Museum District, Rice Military, Rice Village, River Oaks, Sawyer, Third Ward, and Washington Avenue neighborhoods.
“We designed that shirt in the shape of an H with various Houston neighborhoods held together by the epicenter of our booming city, the downtown skyline,” explains Loera. “Whether you’re wearing ‘H-Town’ in our city or New York City, your love for Houston will definitely be evident.
“Houston-inspired tees was the business we felt would be the best because we are both passionate about Houston and T-shirts,” he adds. The duo hopes to “give back” to their adopted hometown by “doing something entrepreneurial and creative,” says Loera.
“Our logo came about because I love ampersands and the idea of connections,” he adds. “The logo is clean and subtle, with two J’s surrounding the ampersand.”
Loera was a high-school art teacher who had never heard of Adobe Illustrator before he and Garza researched the computer program and designed their first T-shirt, on a computer screen, with the aid of YouTube video instructions.
Squarespace.com taught them how to build their own website, joeyandjaime.com, where a calendar tells fans about the markets or festivals where they will be selling their apparel. The Joey & Jaime line is also available at Space Montrose, 1706 Westheimer, and The Tinderbox, 3622 Main St., Ste. B.
Wearing their products also attracts business, says Loera. “We both have been stopped and asked where we got our shirts—but the best part is when we say, ‘We make them!’”
Garza, who now works as a pharmacist, adds, “So far, we’re doing really well. Someday we might venture into having our own shop [that might also feature] other Houston artists and designs, and maybe even get into art and jewelry.”
Donalevan Maines also writes about Mass Appeal in this issue of OutSmart magazine.