About two years ago, Tony Kost decided he wanted to start his own company, and he needed a logo. He started to think about what his dog Oscar James was to him as a companion and realized he could christen the company with his dog's name.
But the more he thought about it, the more he realized that he wanted to do something other than a commercial enterprise.
“When I got sober two years ago, [Oscar James] was there next to me,” says Kost one afternoon while tending bar at Terrestrial, the Battery Park brewery where he works. “I wanted to do some good and reached out to [local artist] Aaron ‘Pants’ Sechrist, who I’ve known for years and years. I wanted to see if he wanted to do a design for me. We met a couple of times. and he got me the logo.”
At that point, Kost decided he didn’t want to use the logo for a commercial enterprise.
“I wanted to do a charitable thing,” he says. “Over the years, I’ve made friends even with the bridges I’ve burned and mistakes I’ve made before I was sober. People are proud of me for my sobriety. I formulated the specifics then as the days went on.”
As a result, Kost has created Oscar James Co
. The plan is that every month or so, he’ll reach collaborate with an artist and ask him or her to design or fashion his dog, Oscar James.
“I’ll figure out a way to recreate that design in a shirt or on a print,” he says. “We’ll figure out a charity that we can donate a portion of the proceeds to. The charities will change. It’s contingent on what the artist wants to do. I’ll take care of that end, and we’ll figure out what to sell the item for. As it grows, I’ll establish donations to these small local charities. That’s what I envision it being.”
He’s just launched the first endeavor, a T-shirt with the company logo on it. Proceeds will go to the Eliza Jennings Center on Detroit.
"The nonprofit has a big Alzheimer's dementia wing," Kost says. "My mother has dementia, so that’s really important to me.”
The shirts cost $25, and Kost sells them at Terrestrial. You can’t yet purchase them directly on the Oscar James Co. website, but Kost says he'll mail shirts to anyone who sends him a check. Customers can contact him through oscarjamesco.com.
“I spent a long time in my life just being a drunk dude,” says Kost. “I was unreliable. I showed up to work but that was it. I missed birthdays and important events like that. I’m becoming a different person, and now I want to do something to make a difference and do something good for the people around me. I don’t want to just go through the motions of life.”
Initially, he’s printed 72 shirts and 500 stickers. He plans to hold a launch event sometime before the year’s end at the brewery, and Terrestrial will potentially brew a beer for the event. Tattoo artist Chad Lenjer will do the next design.
“It goes back to the simplicity of what Oscar embodies to me,” says Kost. “I feel like unconditional love is missing in today’s world. People just look out for themselves. I feel like I could do a lot of good with a different mentality. I want to make sure to give the money to some charity that’s just down the street. I think that will have the most effect.”