By Peter Schwartz
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When he was in high school, Darren Meenan learned how to print t-shirts in art class. As it turns out, it was a skill that would ultimately change his life.READ MORE: Attorney Says Current Whereabouts Of Brian Laundrie, Gabby Petito's Fiancé, Are Unknown
Ten years later, he ran a small business out of his parents’ basement, where he printed shirts for local bands, pizza restaurants, fundraisers and bars.
After the 2009 season, Meenan, a die-hard Mets fan, created a couple of shirts about his favorite team.
“The first one said “I Survived…” and was in reference to another losing season,” Meenan said. “Other fans at Citi Field asked about them when I was wearing them, and the rest is history.”
And that’s how the “The 7 Line” was born. Meenan developed a website and it all began on opening day in 2010. Over the years, he created and sold a plethora of popular t-shirts, sweatshirts, hats and accessories, but his success reached a major milestone in 2014 when his company became officially licensed by Major League Baseball.
Since starting “The 7 Line,” Meenan has adopted the philosophy of “for the fans, by the fans.”
The brand has created such a passionate following that “The 7 Line Army” began filling seats at Citi Field and went on trips to away games. Did Meenan see this coming way back when he was in mom and dad’s basement printing t-shirts?
“No chance,” he admitted. “I didn’t have very high expectations for this besides making a few shirts for some friends. With the help of social media, a thirsty fan base hungry for something to believe in, and thousands of hours of hard work, it grew past my parents’ basement.”
In 2010, “The 7 Line” moved from that basement to a warehouse in Jamaica and then three years later shifted to its current home in New Hyde Park. This past season, the company exploded in popularity, thanks to the Mets’ unexpected run to the World Series.
Some of the more popular shirts from this past season were “TAKE BACK NEW YORK,” “Mets Fans Have More Fun,” “I’m a Mets fan…you’ll be one soon,” “NL Beasts” and “2015 CHAMPIONS.” Also, the orange “POSTSEASON” hoody for the “7 Line Army” outings at Citi Field was the best-selling sweatshirt in the company’s history.
As the merchandise flew off the shelves both on his website and at the kiosk at Citi Field, the “7 Line Army” organized 14 outings — nine in Flushing along with road games in the Bronx, Pittsburgh, Atlanta, Baltimore and Denver. That was an increase from 11 outings in 2014 and six in 2013.
Between the Mets’ success and the Meenan family expanding, it was quite a 2015 season.READ MORE: Teen Stabbed To Death After Dutchess County High School Football Game, Former Student Charged
“The guys contended all season and we were consistently busy since spring training,” Meenan said. “My wife and I had a baby back in May, so, personally, that made this season even more wild. Being first-time parents and me trying to juggle the biggest Mets season in forever was quite the task.”
Even though the Mets lost to the Royals in the World Series, it has already been a busy offseason for “The 7 Line.” On Thursday, Meenan debuted a new home run apple ski hat and all 650 were sold out in seconds online. He teamed up with New Era on the hat last year, but didn’t have enough time to finish them before the winter.
“A custom piece like this takes months to complete from the concept phase,” Meenan said. “I’m actually surprised nobody else ever thought to take the home run apple and turn it in to a knit hat.”
Meenan has 150 more, but he’s saving them for the Dec. 6 warehouse sale in New Hyde Park from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
“The apple hats sold out almost instantly,” Meenan said. “The beanie is probably our most popular item of all time. People will definitely be lining up hours before the doors open.”
Another staple for “The 7 Line” has been its annual calendar that began in 2012, featuring “Calendar Girls” or female Mets fans wearing the clothing line. Meenan would throw a release party each November, but this year the calendar will be released at the warehouse sale and will feature photos from the 2015 group outings.
So after a highly successful 2015 season, where does “The 7 Line” go from here?
“Anywhere the fans want us to go,” Meenan said. “We never had a set plan and always wanted to grow organically. I like that nothing with us ever seems forced. We don’t follow trends or try to make unrealistic goals.”
From it’s infancy in his parents’ basement to the company’s monumental growth over the last two years, “The 7 Line” has been a true labor of love for Meenan.
“This whole thing is fun for me,” Meenan said. “Luckily, the hobby also turned in to a career, even though it doesn’t feel like a ‘job.’ If it does, I’m out. I always want to be a fan first.”
There’s no questioning the love that Meenan has for the Mets, but what sets him apart from many other fans is that he has been able to parlay his affection for the team into an amazin’ way to make money. He’s also created quite the cult following and a means for other fans to make Citi Field a special place.MORE NEWS: Caught On Video: Carmine's Hostess Attacked After Asking Tourists For Proof Of Vaccination
Don’t forget to follow me on Twitter @pschwartzcbsfan. You can also follow @The7Line and @DarrenJMeenan