Faces In The Crowd by Stan Kabla / The Costa Mesa Breeze - June 21, 2001
Doug Smith and Edward McLean, linen designers
Remember back in the days when "Star Wars" and NFL logo sheets where the ultimate in prepubescent cool?
So now that you've grown up and been forced to allow muted pastel, 200-plus thread counts and weird things called pillow shams and duvet covers in your bedroom, what do you do, Ace?
What do you do?
If you're Edward McLean and Doug Smith, the founders of the Hawaiian shirt-like bedding company Dean Miller Prints, you switch the light sabers for surfboards, Tie Fighters for a 1960s Woody and turn all the little Death Stars into hibiscus flowers that even the most Martha Stewart-esque woman wouldn't mind on her bed.
"We get a lot of women buying our stuff," said Smith, who started the company with McLean in one of the bedrooms of his Costa Mesa home. "Some buy it for their surfer boyfriends, but (the split between men and women who use the linen) is actually about 50-50."
McLean, 29, came up with the idea for Hawaiian-print bedding a few years ago while he and Smith, 30, were immersed in the beach culture of the Balboa Peninsula. But when it came to actually making the linens, the duo didn't know a thing.
"I pinned the first comforter together with a general picture of how I thought it should look, and I took it to a local dry cleaners to have them sew it together," McLean said. "I had no idea how these things were made."
That was three years ago. Now, the two friends have expanded their business to more than 20 different fabric patterns, 12 different house ware items (including palm tree-embroidered towels, shower curtains and baby blankets), and have branched out from advertising in Longboard magazine to hawking their wares in more than 60 surf and bedding stores and through their Web site, www.deanmillerprints.com.
McLean left a job as the head bartending instructor for a nationwide restaurant chain to pursue his dream of having his own business. Once he got the ball rolling, he enlisted the business savvy of his soon-to-be MBA buddy, Smith.
Best part of the job:
Having a truly original idea come to fruition is a great feeling, McLean said, adding that until they came along, there was nothing in terms of stylish linens for the beach lover. “Tommy Hilfiger recently came out with a hibiscus pattern, but before us, there was nothing,” he said.
Worst part of the job:
While they may have the market cornered on palm-tree-and-surfboard home accessories, it’s a market that not every retail store is convinced they to cater to, Smith said. “Kayaks on 17th Street was the first store to take our stuff, and they weren’t convinced at first that it was going to sell,” he said. “They’re known for surfboards, not bedding, but we turned them around. Now, they’re one of our best customers.”
A hibiscus by any other name…
Oddly enough, the namesake of the duo’s company has nothing to do with actual business itself; the two adopted the legendary Hawaiian surfer as their mascot because of the legend attached to his name.
“He is a man who hunted wild boar, fished awesome oceans, surfed mighty waves, bathed in breath-taking waterfalls, and most importantly, slept on a bed of Hawaiian flowers,” said McLean, reading from this Web site’s info page on the mystical icon.
Faces in the crowd is a regular feature about regular people and their maybe not-so-regular occupations or passions. Stan Kabala can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org