Black Eagle Press Finds New Home in Downtown Grand Rapids

Black Eagle Trading Post
2 Jefferson Ave., Grand Rapids, (616)427-3908

Black Eagle Press, a local screen-printing operation, has made itself at home on Jefferson Avenue with the opening of Black Eagle Trading Post. The eclectic store features locally handcrafted goods, an impressive collection of antiques, custom clothing reminiscent of a traditional "Sailor Jerry" style, and a screen-printing station in the back.

You'll find vintage Time magazines near the antique couch and a deer head mounted above the door. There's a makeshift fitting room behind the front desk, and all of the wooden shelves are hand-built, giving the space a reclaimed look. The rustic shop is a refreshing addition to downtown Grand Rapids, fitting in perfectly with its neighbors Bartertown Diner and CVLT Pizza.

Designer Tom Jenkins and Press Operator Colin Peak, both Kendall graduates, had been operating out of their partner Jack Norton's apartment on Heritage Hill until they began moving in in early November. Norton had already owned the space, making for an easier transition and rental process.

"I was cleaning screens in his kitchen next to the kitty litter, it wasn't very cool," Peak said. "We convinced him to move down here. There was no overhead, and we already had all of our materials."

The space had been vacant on the corner of Jefferson for almost two years, still set up as a dancewear shop from previous tenants. After a daunting renovation process of chiseling the floors, crowbarring the carpet out and tearing down walls, the space opened on Dec. 20.

"The transition has been good, it's a better atmosphere," said Jenkins. "It's nice to be downtown and to have people coming in and checking it out. We've had a lot of foot traffic, and hopefully even more in the spring."

Jenkins' art has a style that treads between refined and gritty, with influences from Native American symbolism and traditional style tattoo work.
He has been perfecting his craft for around five years now, and has primarily been making custom designs for local businesses and bands.

Besides the shirts, hoodies and hats that you'll see in the store, he can also print posters, stickers and anything else that you'd call upon a graphic designer for. Because he hand draws all of his own designs, his work is always authentic and tailored as an original piece for each client.

"I don't see that much custom work that comes from an artist that runs his own shop," Jenkins said. "It's rare to have an artist working one on one with a client for a custom design."

Besides the clothing, there's an impressive selection of antique goods like 35mm film cameras, old motorcycles parts, toys and trinkets. You'll also find an array of locally crafted goods such as shot glasses, leather goods and flasks.

"We want to expand our merchandise and have more retail from local artists, " Jenkins said. "We really want to display the talent and art from around here."

The store will hold its first public art show and silent auction in March and hopes to have a full clothing line in the future.