For 31 years, the Ray and Barb VanTilburg have been constant fixtures at pop culture conventions across the country. They’re not celebrities or the like. Rather, they are the couple who own OffWorld Designs, the Sandwich, Illinois-based t-shirt and other nerd-wear businesses which have been vending at smaller conventions such as Gamehole Con and Penguicon as well as the mega events such as San Diego Comic-Con and the Gen Con gaming convention.
On January 7th, in a post which appeared on both the Offworld Designs website and their Facebook page, they announced that they would be retiring and closing the business.
Originally founded as a way to sell Ray’s artwork on t-shirts, according to Barb, the business grew from there to support SciFi, Gaming, Anime, Furry and Comic fandoms. In addition to mashups, parodies and in-jokes related to various genre’s they also have licensed products for such properties as Phil and Kaja Foglio’s Girl Genius comic.
Like most everyone else in fandom, especially with niche businesses serving the market, the pandemic greatly affected their business. While their announcement did not specifically mention that they were retiring due to the pandemic, they did note its impact. “We need to unlock the value of our dragon’s horde of inventory,” according to their announcement. To that end, they are having a sale to sell off their stock.
While no specific date has been mentioned for their closing and “moving towards whatever is waiting for us in 2021 and beyond”, they have stated that they still have the staff and equipment and are able to print or embroider custom clothing for customers on a “sooner as opposed to later” basis. They also mentioned that they are open to selling the business if a buyer comes forward.
The couple signed off thanking not only their dedicated family, friends and volunteers who have helped them grow their business, but the many fans and event staff who made it possible.
From their Facebook page:
To all of our fans, thank you so much. Thank you for your business over the years. To the artists, event staff and volunteers we’ve worked with, you have been a joy. Together, we’ve produced a lot of smiles. Things are evolving and we’ll see where it goes. https://www.offworlddesigns.com/