Life is Good in
by Barney Quick
Mike Patrick’s life is good in Brown County. He and sons Jake and Josh (another son, Jeff lives in Indianapolis) run J.B. Goods and Life is Good Kids stores in Nashville. For the past eight years the family has been in the tee-shirt business—not an ordinary souvenir shirt shop, but one with particularly playful messages. Their business was the first in the country to exclusively sell the Life is Good line of merchandise. The Life is Good Kids store is the only store of its kind in “the universe.”
Shoppers have fun in the stores listening to Mike’s choice of music and reading the signs posted all over the store with sayings like “Be realistic. Plan for a miracle.” The shirts, mugs, hats, pajamas, frisbies, and other goods have simple designs with words and images that make you smile: a bike with “alternative energy,” a globe with “home sweet home,” a kayaker with “remote control.” The Patricks believe in sharing a good time with customers. Be prepared to be teased a little.
Mike is a southern Indiana native but spent decades living in faraway places. His ties to Brown County came about through the classic Brown County route: love of the land, entrepreneurship, and civic involvement. In addition to being a businessman he also serves as board chairman of the Brown County Convention and Visitors Bureau. He feels now is a critical time in the county’s evolution as a tourist and living destination.
Patrick’s career field has always been sales and marketing. He had his own advertising agency in Muncie and Indianapolis, and then worked for Ball Corporation and Scott Paper Company in various capacities. All that experience led to work as a consultant. Along the way, he lived in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, and even Budapest, Hungary.
He was plying his trade in Chicago when he began considering retirement. “I thought about going back to Europe. I also looked at Savannah, Georgia,” he said. But during a visit with his sister in Bloomington he asked a realtor to show him some Brown County cabins. He found one with ample room for his piano and his sizeable record collection. It also came with a pond suitable for fishing and canoeing.
“I commuted from Chicago for a while,” he recalled. “I had a 55th floor apartment there. When I’d drive down here, about the time I’d get to Bean Blossom, I could feel my blood pressure drop.” He knew he was home.
Retirement proved short-lived. “I got tired of chopping wood. I’d see all these people walking around, looking in shops, and I’d think, I ought to be able to get in on this,” he said.
He first opened the Hilltop Hiking Company, and the Life Is Good merchandise was one of the product lines. He approached Bert and John Jacobs, the owners of Life is Good, about starting a store exclusively devoted to their brand. They responded favorably.
His sons share an appreciation of the area and the independence of entrepreneurship. “I’m glad I could give them an alternative to the rigors of corporate life,” said Mike.
In his capacity as the Convention and Visitors Bureau board chairman, he sees an opportunity to marshal community consensus on ensuring the area’s continued viability. “I’d like for the bureau to be a unifying force in the community, a forum for the best of everybody’s visions to be realized,” he said. “We’re particularly suited for that. I’m just amazed at how hard the staff works.”
He feels that most Brown County residents understand the strengths of the area’s character. “We are tourism. We’re not going to become an industrial center.” While he acknowledged the importance of the visual arts in Brown County’s uniqueness, he said, “Our musical heritage is sometimes an overlooked asset. We take a back seat to no one. Slat’s Klug’s ‘Christmas in a Cabin,’ for instance, is as good as any timeless, nationally-loved Christmas song.”
He feels that one of Brown County’s greatest assets is the fact that, while the population is comparatively small, it encompasses a wide demographic spectrum. “Go into some place around here for a cup of coffee,” he said. “You’ll see every age group, income level, and educational background.”
Patrick is confident that constructive synergy is resulting from efforts to pool the resources of various community organizations.
The two Nashville locations of J.B. Goods are 172 North Van Buren Street and 102 South Van Buren Street. Their website is <www.jbgoods.com>. Mike can be reached at <email@example.com>.