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Melissa Allison follows the world's biggest coffee-shop chain and other Seattle caffeine purveyors.

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March 23, 2009 7:26 AM

Life after Kapow! for creators of "Ride the S.L.U.T." T-shirts, now sold at Inner Chapters in South Lake Union

Posted by Melissa Allison


T-shirt creators Don Clifton (far left) and Jeremiah St. Georges (far right). Inner Chapters' cafe manager Kelli Kirtley (left) and owner Kristina Barnes (in pink).

Keeping up with the creators of Seattle's internationally recognized "Ride the S.L.U.T." T-shirts is like trying to track a tornado.

Since Kapow! Coffee closed last fall, barista Jeremiah St. Georges and longtime customer Don Clifton have kept the South Lake Union Trolley ("S.L.U.T.") T-shirt business alive online and at Inner Chapters Bookstore & Cafe, just a block from Kapow!'s old digs.

"I wanted to show neighborhood solidarity among the businesses," Inner Chapters owner Kristina Barnes said of her offer of a storefront for the T-shirts, which are printed by another South Lake Union entrepreneur, Mark Himple, co-owner of the neighborhood's Cafe Venus and the marsBar. (Himple's Gorilla Screen Printing does the T-shirts.)

Orders aren't what they were a couple years ago, when CNN and others broadcast the T-shirts' availability, but they still ship internationally on occasion.

These days, Jeremiah attends futures options conferences shaven and wearing a suit (a suit!), invests his money and shops for a local coffee shop to buy. He visits a couple a week -- can you believe so many are for sale? -- but hasn't found the right fit.

A few of his coffee kiosk ideas: A "S.L.U.T. Hut" along the South Lake Union Trolley (officially, Streetcar) line; a "Mr. Green Beans" kiosk with solar panels fueling the espresso machine and grinder; and "Hunk O'Latte" to appeal to the gay crowd on Capitol Hill.

Despite that last one, Jeremiah's not gay. "If I have my coffee, my girlfriend and my cat, that's all I need," he said during a conversation about whether he's independently wealthy.

Don Clifton is actually more of a tornado. With degrees in music and psychology from the University of Oklahoma (see?), he's a firearm safety instructor for Wade's Eastside Guns. Go figure.

Clifton also used some of the S.L.U.T. T-shirt money to start the Fremont Music School at the Fremont Abbey Arts Center. This spring, he and the other teachers each plan to give free lessons to one needy student and challenge other local music schools to do the same.

And he's in an alternative Southern band, Scattergun, that's holding a CD release party at marsBar in a couple weeks... bringing us full circle to South Lake Union.

Here's a better look at the T-shirt ($15), modeled by Barnes, and a map to her store:

InnerChapters 010.jpg

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