Creative boutique growing one design at a time

George Vlosich, the Indians' Michael Brantley, Greg Vlosich

For years, local media outlets have written about Northeast Ohio’s brain drain. So when a pair of artistically inclined brothers open up shop in Lakewood, it’s big news.

Of course, for brothers George Vlosich III, 35, and Greg Vlosich, 30, it was a no-brainer given their well-known love for Cleveland and their Lakewood roots.

“There is nothing we cannot handle from a creative standpoint. People know us mostly for the shirts right now but we do so much more,” Greg says. “From artwork, to logos to advertising and then something no one else in the world can do, the Etch A Sketch, there is nothing we cannot handle creatively. Big companies come to us knowing they can get everything all in one.”

Yes, the Etch A Sketch. Before GV Art + Design got rolling, George gained notoriety for his spot-on artwork using the fabled children’s toy. His creations landed him in a bevy of magazines and television shows including Sports Illustrated, Boys Life, “Late Night with David Letterman” and “Oprah.”

“The Etch A Sketch has always opened up a lot of doors. It has allowed us to meet some of the biggest celebrities and go to some really amazing places,” Greg says. “However, we have really established the T-shirt part of our business separate from anything else. The Etch adds to it but I don’t think it had too much to do with opening up the store. The store is a way to showcase everything that we do. The shirts have become their own identity and part of our brand.”

Born at home

After peddling their “Cleveland That I Love” shirts and other artwork out of their parents’ home for five years, the duo, along with their dad George Vlosich Jr. opened GV Art + Design a year ago.

The GV Art + Design crew, five full-time and 12 part-time employees, might be best known for the shirts but Greg stresses that the business is a full-on design boutique that includes original artwork, print and Web design, logos, photography and apparel.

Helping foster the brothers’ creative spirit is their father and business partner, who guided them down the artistic path. The brothers were always into art and the elder George, who was in advertising himself, took note and stressed the proper techniques.

Greg learned from watching his brother, who would go on to graduate at the top of his class at the Cleveland Institute of Art, and the rest is history. Greg attended CIA for a year before transferring to Cleveland State University where he graduated with a degree in graphic design.

Along with their father’s advertising background, George spent nine years working at Wyse Advertising before GV Art + Design got to a point where he could commit to it full time. His experience at Wyse helped him grow creatively as well as on the business side of things.

Making a mural statement

GV Art + Design clients include LRMR Marketing, the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Cleveland Clinic and one of the most prominent murals in Cleveland — the 10-story Sherwin-Williams banner facing Quicken Loans Arena — which George designed. In 2013, the brothers became part of the Pro Merch athletic apparel family, giving the dynamic design duo a presence on the national athletic apparel stage.

The brothers say there is something special about being able to create more than 90 designs for top NFL players, work with a national brand, have the items showcased in stores nationwide and still stick to their Northeast Ohio roots.

“I think our greatest accomplishment is just being able to do what we love and get all the exposure and national attention and still being able to stay in Cleveland,” Greg says. “We always wanted to start in Cleveland and then grow nationally.”

Not everything was a slam-dunk; there were some obstacles along the way for GV Art + Design. The biggest issue right now is balancing everything that their creative boutique offers.

“We set such a high standard for our work and our shirts that we are perfectionists and want each one to be our very best,” Greg says. “Right now, we have to be a part of every process of the business that it takes up so much time. There’s so many little things that you do not realize until you start a business.”

Before getting started there were obstacles as well, notably from naysayers and those who told them they should take their talents to the East or West coasts. Unlike those skeptics or a famous athlete who took his talents elsewhere the brothers have stayed, started their own families and opened the Lakewood location.

“There’s always been so many people that said it can’t be done,” Greg says. “Every step of the way through hard work (and) God’s favor we’ve proven it wrong. And the best part is that we’ve just scratched the surface and are just getting started.”

How to reach: GV Art + Design, (216) 273-7188 or www.gvartwork.com