California T’s are Made of These
Madison Baker’s Return to the LBK
Madison Baker chose not to look back when she left her job as an event planner for a catering company in Charlotte, North Carolina. After spending seven years working full time in the industry, Madison, and her husband Chris, craved a change of scenery. Though they both would agree their time spent in Charlotte was enjoyable, they also would agree there was always something lacking — an element of camaraderie and community. As years passed, both found themselves dreaming more and more of home.
“It was always in our heads that we were going to return to Lubbock, or at least come back closer to home,” said Baker.
In search of a change of pace and a more affordable cost of living, the couple sought what Charlotte could no longer provide. When they realized the same opportunities for growth were available in Lubbock, they made the choice to move back.
“It got really exciting when we started comparing house prices to larger cities,” said Baker. “Charlotte was growing, which was really neat, but it was also really busy, expensive and crowded. So, whenever we came back to Lubbock and could drive down the street to our parents’ house in less than eight minutes, without any traffic, I started to realize this makes my mind better. This makes me happier. Life is easier in a good, simple way.”
For Baker, the move back meant a myriad of things. For starters, she could own a home and the affordable cost of living meant more time spent pursuing interesting activities — but most importantly, returning to Lubbock meant a complete career change. After 25 years spent away from the family business, Madison would return home to succeed her father, Steve Taylor, as head of California T’s.
Established in 1976, California T’s, is a Lubbock mainstay that specializes in custom screen printing and embroidery for all types of products, from t-shirts and sweaters to bandanas, hats, stickers and everything in between. Inspired by a trip to California in his youth, Taylor returned to Lubbock with a vision and a business model in mind.
Over 40 years later, Baker follows in her father’s footsteps, adding her own flair along the way. Though the shop will continue to process custom orders, Baker plans to expand its retail and online presence, featuring Lubbock and Texas Tech themed shirts with vintage-inspired designs. As the shop mantra goes: California T’s is “where boring comes to die and imagination comes to life.”
Pulling from that mantra, Baker uses her community and her life experiences to draw inspiration for designs and marketing campaigns. Since moving back, Baker acknowledges there’s been a veritable renaissance of arts and culture in Lubbock, and it inspires her daily.
“We were really excited to learn about the First Friday Art Trail,” said Baker. “When we left in 2013, it was going, but it was nothing like it is today. And there are the breweries. Having Two Docs Brewing Co. open the day we moved back was like a sign to me. I thought ‘This is good.’”
And as new businesses open, and old ones grow, Baker takes this as a heartening sign of things to come — both for California T’s and Lubbock as a whole.
“I can see that a lot of younger generations are here now taking over some businesses and running others downtown, things like that,” said Baker. “While there are tons of corporations here, and Tech employs tons of people too, there are so, so many small business owners too. That, to me, says Lubbock obviously supports small businesses.”
As Baker settles into her new position as head of California T’s, she acknowledges there’s more to the family business than t-shirts. For Baker, and entrepreneurs like her and her father, the growth and development of their business mean something greater: the growth and development of their hometown Lubbock.
“If I can make a lot of cool designs, and market them right, and get people to wear Lubbock gear, then that’s awesome,” said Baker. “But it’s all for the greater mission of getting people to move back here.”
Learn more about returning to the LBK.