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Issue Date: March 2010

Fan with a Plan

Tony Madalone is a big Josh Cribbs supporter. He also owns a company that makes T-shirts.

Jim Vickers

If Josh Cribbs has a new contract by the time you read this, know that Tony Madalone helped make it happen. If not, maybe you should throw your support behind his campaign to get the Browns’ most potent offensive weapon a pay raise.

Madalone, the 25-year-old founder of Fresh Brewed Tees, launched his clothing company in November. But it was Cribbs’ January contract standoff that gave the North Ridgeville man the chance to build buzz for his business while backing the Browns star.

He created a T-shirt sporting the phrase “Pay Cribbs!” and a silhouette of No. 16. Madalone then sent the T-shirt design to ESPN’s Jay Crawford, who mentioned it on-air just as debate over what Cribbs’ agent called an “insulting” $1.4 million-a-year offer from the Browns boiled over in public.

“[Crawford] mentioned the T-shirt and showed it for like 10 seconds,” Madalone recalls. “I was in shock. … I had 75 sales before I even printed the first one.”

Although the $15 Cribbs shirt has snagged a lot of publicity, the company will soon get back to its original plan — a line of bags, scarves and skirts made of recycled T-shirts. “That’s the focus of the business,” Madalone says.

Before that, though, Fresh Brewed Tees is taking on LeBron James’ upcoming free agency with a “Please Stay LBJ” shirt (available in wine and gold or throwback blue and orange, $18). If the Cribbs shirt is any indication, Madalone has a knack for playing on the city’s sports obsession of the moment.

“I’m a Clevelander, so I know how Clevelanders react,” he says, adding that the investment to launch such a product is relatively low. “Sure, we could be out a couple hundred bucks, or we could start a revolution.”

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