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‘Wearable kitsch’ couple will return to Floridania Fest

Bill DeYoung

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Alexa Schneider, left, and Lauren Sampson are the proprietors of 5801 Print House. Photo by Bill DeYoung.

When Pennsylvanians Alexa Schneider and Lauren Sampson moved to Florida, they quickly learned about the Sunshine State’s rich history of pre-Disney tourism, and the myriad ways in which attractions (and cities) marketed themselves. Vintage Florida souvenirs and advertising – the more garish, the better – were like siren songs to these women just starting a screen-printing business.

They began in 2022, selling T-shirts and tote bags and other wearables, emblazoned with old-school Florida kitsch, out of their St. Pete garage. The business, which they named 5801 Print House after the street number on their home, was a runaway success. Schneider and Sampson have moved great numbers of kitschy goods at outdoor festivals and art shows. And online.

They sell T-shirts – a lot of T-shirts – advertising Webb’s City, Tiki Gardens, the Festival of States and other long-gone favorites. Weeki Wachee. Cypress Gardens. The kind of loud, colorful maps festooned for decades on paper restaurant placemats. Lots of pelicans, alligators and flamingos.

“When we started making these, we didn’t know if it would be something that tourists would buy,” Schneider said. “We kind of assumed. But they’re a lot more well-received by locals because it’s something they can wear with pride. It’s not like a beach souvenir, or something tacky. It means something to them.”

Last July, the couple went all brick-and-mortar, opening a combination storefront/printing room at 5725 Central Avenue. It’s still called 5801 Print House, even though the actual 5801 Central, just 100 yards or so west, is a CVS Pharmacy.

It’s complicated.

By a wide margin, their best day, every year, is at the Floridania Fest, held every April at the Gulfport Casino. The 2024 edition takes place Saturday, April 27.

“We’ll see how it compares this year, but we’ve always had a really good turnout,” said Schneider. “We were worried in the beginning, because there’s a lot of people that are collectors, that don’t like reproduction-type things. But it was really well-received, because not everybody has a spot for that one souvenir, or don’t know what they would do with it once they bought it.

“But they know that they can get something like that, something newly-made and affordable to everyone’s price range. And it gets used on a daily basis.”

Author, collectible dealer and event organizer Ken Breslauer says he’s expecting this Floridania Fest – the third annual – to break last year’s attendance record. Breslauer thinks 2,000 visitors might come to peruse, and purchase, old (and kinda new) Florida memorabilia.

Some come to gawk and talk, and that’s OK too.

“I think it’s nostalgia,” Breslauer explained. “I think people kind of want to buy their childhood, in some respects. It’s fond memories of how Florida used to be.”

Breslauer contracted with 5801 Print House to create the official Floridania Fest T-shirt. “They’re real entrepreneurs,” he said. “They’re doing a great job re-kindling this kind of nostalgia thing, with St. Pete in particular, but all kinds of Florida stuff.”

The April 27 event (9:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m.) will include 27 vendors selling everything from postcards, pennants and signage to books and original Florida artwork. Alexa Schneider and Lauren Sampson will be there, repping 5810 Print House.

“That’s the really cool part of the show,” Breslauer emphasized. “The variety of stuff.”

At-the-door admission is $5.

The ’22 event at the Gulfport Casino. Photo provided.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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