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Bravefriend Apparel and Design

The Love Behind the Logo

Article by Nikita Hanniff

Photography by Rebecca Williams

Originally published in Aiken City Lifestyle

In the heart of our thriving and picturesque Downtown Aiken lies a small business with a big story. Bravefriend Apparel and Design has a welcoming ambience from the moment you enter its doors. Your senses are immediately met with the aromatic tickling of lavish coffee beans roasting. As you scan the shop, you feel at home and comfortable. Comfy and stylish apparel in every color of the rainbow greets you, and uniquely styled items fill every inch of the store teasing you to purchase them.

Your focus will undoubtedly be drawn to a large mural of a sweet looking canine studying you while you look around. His gaze seems to follow you around with curiosity and warmth. As you peruse further, you find this furry visage is branded upon most of the merchandise in the store from shirts, bags, cups and more. There are numerous conclusions a shopper could come to over why this branded pup is center stage at this shop. To understand the significance, you must travel back in time multiple years to when Patrick Donovan, the owner of Bravefriend, was a struggling college student at the University of South Carolina.

From as early as Patrick can remember, he always wanted a Weimaraner for a dog. He scanned every classified section and ad searching for this special breed he dreamed about. He came across a listing for a huge litter in Appling, Georgia. He loaded up his vehicle and made the trip in search of his first dog. Upon his arrival, the lady opened her door and a wave of Weimaraner’s burst from the door except for one. This puppy seemed on a mission and immediately made his way straight to Patrick. They instantly clicked, and Patrick managed to barter with the lady and snag his dream dog for just $200. On the ride home Patrick lovingly named his precious pup, Tanner. Tanner showed a true love for Patrick early on; he was a typical puppy but always managed to only chew and demolish Patrick’s college roommate’s items. In Patrick’s words, “Tanner was the best worst puppy I could have ever asked for.” 

Patrick was constantly creating sorority and fraternity shirts and shirts sporting famous bands. No matter how busy Patrick was with life, he and Tanner were inseparable. They developed a true bond; one that would end up saving Patrick’s life. On April 20, 1999, Patrick and his best friend, Christian, headed to bed after a long day. Sound asleep, neither of them were aware of the aggressive blazing fire that was consuming the front of their townhome. Tanner, however, sprang into action and made his way into Patrick’s room licking his face until he awoke. Tanner guided Patrick to Christian’s room to wake him and led them to the door where they were rushed to the hospital for severe burns and smoke inhalation. When Patrick awoke at the hospital, he was informed his heroic dog never made it out.

The next day Patrick returned to the townhome and wrapped Tanner’s body in his favorite Patagonia blanket. He drove Tanner to his grandparent’s home on Lake Murray; Patrick wanted his lionhearted champion to be buried in the perfect place. Tanner was laid to rest along the shoreline where the best sunrises and sunsets oversee his grave. Patrick drew a sketch of Tanner as he grieved and in November 1999, that sketch became the iconic screen-printed image that people recognize today.  To commemorate his brave friend, Patrick made 36 shirts and distributed them to people who had helped him recover during such a dark time. What occurred next was destiny sparking a revolution. Patrick started getting calls that more people wanted shirts. Thus, the dream and vision of Bravefriend was born. Patrick started peddling shirts at concerts and national parks eventually opening shop in an art studio behind his home and then branching out into two current storefronts. The story of Tanner continues to grow and so does the request for more merchandise. Tanner has forever been immortalized through Patrick’s undying devotion and mission to spread his story.

“Tanner was the best worst puppy I could have ever asked for.”

Businesses featured in this article