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Catalog History of Cruisin’ USA

Please note that the first few catalogs were entitled Formula Impressions. This was a company the Alan and Helene Spetner started in 1986 and was a Apparel Decorating division of a company called Gran Prix. Originally the company was called Formula One Impressions to tie into the car racing theme of the parent company.

In 1990, the name Cruisin’ USA was finally adopted and a federal registration was granted for the name and the artwork that appears in our logo and all subsequent catalogs.

Here then are the company’s catalogs with a little history from each year since the introduction of our first catalog in 1986.

Enjoy,
Alan Spetner, CEO

Catalog # 1 –1986 –This catalog was really just a folder with a print on the outside cover. Inside the folder were some catalog pages of some stock bowling shirts made by a couple of old line bowling manufacturers, plus some of my original clip art for printing on the backs of these shirts. The clip art used on the front was modified for our use and I added a bowling shirt and bowling shoes to the people in the scene. I also added my first “editorial” about what I wanted the company to be (typed on my first computer, an Apple II)…… I used this for the next 5 years. It reads:

Formula Impressions Catalog
"Reach back into time, to those days of 5 cent pinball machines, played in 8 lane bowling alleys located up some dark stairs in an old building. Cruisin’ was the thing to do and the sounds of BEE_BOP_A_LU_LA filled the malt shops and drug stores across the country. Fats Domino, Chubby Checker, and Fabian started dance crazes that went from American Bandstand to our very own Friday night Teen Towns. The 50’s saw a prosperity in America that carved out a theme for an entire generation of post war baby boomers.

These upbeat days were reflected in all phases of life. Radio gave way to a new medium called television which allowed Americans to visually reflect on their own lifestyle. The medium became the message and as the 60’s got under way, our demand for goods and services led the way to mass production of almost everything. The technological revolution had begun, and this new generation of flat-top and pony-tailed youth entered high school and college ready to change the world.

Before long the world did change and the peaceful 50’s were forgotten in the tumultuous and exciting 60’s. The war in Vietnam, the Flower Power movement, Civil Rights, and the Beatles turned this new world upside down. The corner malt shops and confectionaries were being replaced by Supermarkets and 7-11’s. Advice to new graduates was summed up in one word…..PLASTICS.

Formula Impressions is a by-product of those wild and crazy years. We have resisted the move to plastic and have kept alive that spirit of the 50’s and 60’s. Our GOAL is to give our customers a lasting impression reminiscent of those glory days. Return with us now to those days of yesteryear…..Hi-Oh Silver…Away…

Catalog # 2 –January, 1988 -After the initial success of our first catalog being mailed to our customers from Rolling Stone advertising, we spent a couple of year gathering more products. This catalog had our first color page and 13 color pages of our bowling shirt designs, a page of Satin Tour jackets, a page of retro styled T-Shirts and our first try at Poodle Skirts and Letter Sweaters.
Catalog # 3 -September, 1988 -We learned from experience that the color pictures sold better than the black and white, but the cost back then was extremely prohibitive for a fledgling company. Thus the 11” x 17” piece of paper folded into an 8 page catalog in FULL COLOR and titled The Daily Planet. Besides a full line of Retro Bowling Shirts and Poodle Skirts, we also introduced our first line of Chenille Emblems which proved to be a huge hit at the car shows we attended and founder our current President Helene Spetner spent hours hand sewing these large emblems on her chainstitch machine and then sewing the emblems onto satin jackets and adding names to the front of the jackets. Chenille emblems included, Cruisin, Back to the 50’s, The Big Bopper, Dream Lover, and many more. This was also the first catalog where we offered wholesale dealerships to people.
Catalog # 4 -January, 1990 -The car show circuit seemed endless and our summers were filled with fun days at some of the largest car shows in the country. We now went to a 12 page full color catalog and added some fun products like car hop trays, greeting cars, high school “going steady” rings, thin satin neckties, Letterman jackets, and of course our standbys of bowling shirts and poodle mania. Since we now owned our own laser printer, we also offered custom business cards for “Oldies Connoisseurs and Cruisin’ Veterans.

Catalog # 5 -April 1991 -The TOP 10 HITS from 1957 Finally, a fresh look for the catalog with a title and 2 pictures on the front cover. We cut back to a 4 pager as we needed the money to buy inventory which would quickly disappear. We added live models, more bowling shirts, and our infamous Music Game.
Catalog # 6 –May 1993 –50-STUF After 4 years of car shows, I caught the bug and we bought a 1955 Chevy, souped it up, and bought the license plate which appears on the cover. It was also the first time we adopted the name CRUISIN’ USA because that’s what we did. In that catalog, we listed the shows where we would be vending and really began to build our mailing list. We greatly expanded our T-Shirt line and took advantage of the latest fad of FULL SHIRT printing. Our CRUISIN’ all over print on front and back sold over 25,000 units over the next 12 months. We also added a line of ELVIS, JAMES DEAN and MARILYN MONROE products as well as a great line of ROUTE 66 Collectibles.
Catalog # 7 –January 1995 –The FABULOUS 50’s This was the first use of our now registered trademark artwork for CRUISIN’ USA. We bought the FABULOUS 50’s neon sign on the cover at a car show and were now selling neon signs after we fell in love with this one. Our current facility is filled with neon. The front cover was a collage of our Chenille emblems and in this catalog we got caught up in the COKE craze and had an entire line of Coca Cola products. We also introduced our first line of 50’s party goods and our soon to be new superstar….BETTY BOOP. This catalog was our biggest effort to go into the catalog mailing business. It was 28 pages in full color, had over 500 products for sale, and lasted over two years.
Catalog # 8 –May 1997 - Our 55 Chevy in front of a TIME TUNNEL Car Cruise park I went back to the original editorial and shot this picture at a park just built for about 70 miles south of St. Louis. We expanded again to 32 pages, but to hold down costs, we made the pages 5 ½” x 8”. This was a fun catalog and for the first time our print run was over 50,000 copies. It was also the first time our web address was featured in the catalog. It was also the first time we began to have our own printed fabric made into shirts and our Route 66 shirt is still a collector’s item on eBay. We now had our own Betty Boop License and the company had grown to 9 full time employees.

Catalog # 9 –February 1998 – Product Collage on front buoyed by the advent of the Internet as a selling medium, our little company began to grow by leaps and bounds. This catalog featured our new license for Roy Orbison products, our first 50’s collectible jewelry, and 2 new bowling shirt styles. We also jumped into the wholesale business and added our current V.P. and General manager Tim Coggeshall, who began to attend trade shows to spread our products into other retail stores.

Catalog # 10 –January 1999 - In the MALT SHOP The 50’s retro craze was catching on nationwide and we shot this cover at the Rock and Roll Hardees just a few miles from our business. This was an interim catalog that did not contain many new items. We were bursting at the seams in our tiny 7800 sq. ft. facility and were in a holding pattern as we were trying to digest the growth. Our Internet business also began to pick up, but the best was yet to come.
Catalog # 11 –January 2000 – 6 Models including owner Helene Spetner on bottom left. This was the first catalog to contain an EMAIL address and in the latter part of the previous year we had registered our current name and trademark, BowlingShirt.com. We also added back our original tagline of "FUN, FADS, and FASHIONS from the FABULOUS 50’s." We went back to 32 pages and imported our first ever shirts from India called the Rock-a-Bowler. We also featured some of our customer photos. This 32 page full color catalog was a winner for us, and we dropped one into every package of our ever increasing customer base as the Internet kicked in full force and we now had 13 employees and 2 trailers filled with inventory parked outside in our parking lot.


Catalog # 12 –January 2001-Taken at the National Bowling Hall of Fame in St. Louis All we had time to do was change the color scheme of the catalog and add a few new bowling designs….and all because of TIME, magazine that is. With the INTERNET the hottest thing since Hula Hoops, I came home from work late at night during the Christmas rush and saw a new TIME magazine on the counter where we kept our mail. I was thumbing through it while eating a sandwich when I turned to a page and there at the bottom was www.bowlingshirt.com I couldn’t believe my eyes – My little company (which was now doing over $2 Million/year in sales) was listed in the magazine as one of the 15 best SPORTS SHOPPING SITES on the web. Therefore, no time or money for a new catalog as the orders began flying in from our web site – We did however, have to re-invest in new software to handle our ever increasing volume of business.


Catalog # 13 –February 2002 - The ROAD TRIP featuring our PT CRUISER Still housed in our little hole in the wall, and now up to 15 employees we had one of those great creative sessions over a few beers and came up with the idea of taking our customers on a road trip. By this time we were getting pretty good at digital imaging. We rewarded our manager Tim, by making him a partner and buying him a 2001 PT CRUISER which he immediately went and had a “flamed” paint job applied. We were on a roll and this 36 page color catalog had a fold out middle section featuring 9 retro bowling shirt styles in 28 color combinations. Our road trip catalog also featured a new section of products reminiscent of Old Vegas as well as the Sopranos BADDA BING CLUB. We also began to create product featuring 50’s style pin-up girls (link to SportsPinUps shirt page). We had made some money these past couple years and were now ready to spend it.


Catalog # 14 –January 2003 –BowlingShirt.com –Background Collage of Bowling Shirts With the Internet business booming, new software installed, and our products featured in magazines and newspapers all over the world, it was time to move. After 2 years of searching, I was able to find the right building for us. We bought the building in late 2003 and we spent 4 months preparing the facility for our new home. In May of 2004, we moved in to our current location with almost 20,000 sq feet. We actually were able to have our own offices and a production / warehouse facility that would streamline our business. With our websites as our main source of revenue, we cut way back on the catalogs. We were now importing all of our shirts from China, Pakistan, and Turkey.


Catalog # 15 –January 2004 - Picture of Bowling Hall of Fame Realizing that the INTERNET was now the future of our business, we really were easing out of production of catalogs, and merely wanted a bounce back to drop in to each one of our packages. With digital printing now the standard for catalog production we were able to produce our own catalog and for the first time put each one of our “STOCK RETRO IMAGES” into the center of the catalog so people could choose from many designs. We also began to manufacture overseas our line of mini Bowling Bag purses.
Catalog # 16 –January 2005 – Black/Gold Loungemaster shirt This catalog cover was one of our best ever and was picked up nationally in many newspaper articles. We had settled into our new facility and things were going well. We also introduced a line of retro style 100% silk shirts. It was our first real deviation from shirts which could be screen printed. The editorial for that catalog was a letter to our customers which read…

Back in 1986 when we first started our company, I wrote about the Fifties era and specifically about 5 cent pinball machines and 8 lane bowling alleys. Little did I imagine that 20 years later these 8 lane bowling alleys would re-appear as bright, cheery martini bars. Corporate
bowling parties have become the rage and bowling has re-emerged as a funactivity for birthdays, sales meetings, and Saturday night get togethers.
Even better, Cruisin’ USA has insured that the retro styled bowling shirty became mainstream. Over these past 20 years, the Cruisin’ USA brand has morphed into our company motto…THE FUTURE of RETRO. In 2004 we sold our 1 millionth bowling shirt, most of which are still proudly worn by their owners.
Our facility is state of the art and our staff of 25 continues to grow. Our managers have all been promoted from within. The Cruisin’ USA team is well trained and work with the idea that “The customer is King”. We have worked hard to make the Cruisin’ USA brand the leader in fifties inspired products. We have no intent of letting that distinction disappear.
Catalog # 17 –January 2006 – Models on front As our Internet business continued to grow, we tried to cover our core line of products with a small 8 page catalog – The writing was on the wall- We looked to saving paper and costs. We featured our new Retro T-Shirt line and dropped this catalog into every package we shipped in 2006.

Catalog # 18 – January 2007 –Turquoise cover-Lots of girls in our outfits The big improvement in this years catalog was the inclusion of ALL OF OUR GRAPHICS in 1” x 1” picture in the center spread. From Bowling to Car Cruisin’ we now had 2 full pages of STOCK graphics for our wide range of customers. Again, only an 8 pager as we were preparing this new web site. As our CUSTOM WORK is being used now by thousands of customers worldwide, we featured it on the back cover with a special emphasis on digital printing.
Looking into the future, we now have a much easier website to navigate and shop. The future will bring a downloadable PDF right off the website and who knows what the wonderful world of the Internet and digital media will bring...

Thanks for being a customer -We couldn’t have done it without you!

Alan Spetner, CEO
Cruisin’ USA / BowlingShirt.com