Glancing at Funky 7's wares — Detroit sports gear emblazoned with retro logos, classic rock T-shirts, and a healthy dose of incense — you'd think owner Dan Davis was stuck in the past. But Davis is acutely aware that oftentimes survival means changing with the times.
Before Royal Oak was the trendy metropolitan shopping and bar-hopping destination it is now, it went through other incarnations. In the '70s, Davis ran a more traditional men's clothing store in the area. "I went from a tie to this," Davis says, indicating a more casual jeans and a T-shirt look. "This is how I like my look."
Davis says when he started Funky 7 in the '90s, Royal Oak had more of an alternative crowd. He says in that time, the store was more of a "head shop without the head" format.
"You had your tat people, your piercing people. A lot of that type of clientele — rock 'n' roll, skull and bones," he says. "We did that, but then the town started changing. The younger people came in with little kids, a little more conservative. But they kept asking for Detroit stuff."
Picking up on the rising nostalgia for the past, Davis began stocking old-school T-shirts. But he's quick to point out he takes pride in finding vendors who use the latest cuts and fabrics as well.
"I tell people this isn't your father's T-shirt anymore," he says. "It's a whole different type of system today — every manufacturer cuts a different garment, the fit on the cuts are all different. But it's the fabric that really makes the difference. We're getting very good feedback from our customer base.
Among Funky 7's shelves, you'll find tees representing Detroit's four major sports teams — the Lions, Tigers, Red Wings, and Pistons — along with University of Michigan and Michigan State gear. Retro gems include Lions gear with the team's 1960s logo and T-shirts emblazoned with the Pistons' "Bad Boys"-era logo.
"I got a shirt coming in with a logo of the Sparty mascot back from the '50s that nobody's ever seen," Davis says. "We found it online. I sent it to one of my resources. It took them six months to get the license, but we'll have the shirts. We get an exclusive. That's a fun way to do it too."
Davis says that in tandem with retromania, Detroit pride T-shirts are also increasingly popular. "We're getting Michigan people who moved all over the country — they come to visit, they grab Detroit-oriented stuff," he says. "We just shipped to Australia. Everyone wants to represent the D, but not just the generic everyday stuff."
Detroit paraphernalia includes the shirts with the "smoking gun" design as made famous by Mac on It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, the Detroit police logo from the '70s, and the "Mumford Phys. Ed. Dept." logo as worn by Eddie Murphy in Beverly Hills Cop.
Davis runs the store with his son, Clay, who helps maintain Funky 7's website. The store's longevity has been a pleasant surprise for the elder Davis. "If you would have asked me 10 years ago if you could make a living selling this kind of stuff, I'd have said you were crazy," he says. "We're having fun with this."