Jason Lising brings a queer sensibility to Bullzerk, the sassy Dalla-centric boutique on Lower Greenville Avenue
J. DENTON BRICKER | Contributing Writer
Since opening in February, Bullzerk — the quirky T-shirt boutique on Lower Greenville Avenue — has been known for its cheeky and clever designs specific to local neighborhoods in and around Dallas. Its aphorisms adorn an assortment of tanks and Ts, as well as coasters, coozies and wall art. (You might have seen their product in Dallas Voice’s annual Swimsuit Edition earlier this year.)
And if you ever wondered, “How did they come up with those ideas?” the answer may very well be Jason Lising.
“I was the first person in the door — I hadn’t been hired yet,” Lising tells us. “I was working across the street at Clark [Food & Wine Co.], waiting tables. Dan [Bradley, owner of Bullzerk] used to come in there all the time and we would get to talking. He was super friendly and I finally just came in and checked everything out. I saw the sign on the door looking for graphic designers; I actually have a freelance business that does graphic design, web design and photography.”
Since then, Lising has been a staple at the store, primarily serving as its manager, but also bringing other talents to the collective design process, some of which he already possessed and others he has honed from Bullzerk’s central graphic designer Dan Bradley. “I wear so many hats it’s not even funny,” he jokes.
Lising helps with store operations, e-commerce and graphic design, and is responsible for product photography and anything that needs to be illustrated.
Lising designed a shirt for the Oak Lawn neighborhood appropriately called “Drag Me to Oaklawn,” with the text on intersecting street signs that plays up the double entendre.
“I wanted to offer a gay shirt and he didn’t have one at first. Not that he was scared but he wanted to be cautious. We didn’t want to do anything that would offend the gay community or anybody for that matter. We wanted it to be timeless and classy so it took many iterations to find something that we could settle on and once we did find it, it took ten minutes to put the graphic together. I actually have a picture of Jada Fox and she is pulling my arm while I am wearing that shirt.”
Bullzerk’s “design center” is in the back and open to the public, which helps foster a uniquely collaborative, creative environment while also providing a whole new level of transparency to patrons. A sign challenges guests to ask about making their own shirt if they don’t see something they like.
“The whole store kind of helps with coming up with some of the designs,” Lising says. “An idea can come from anyone, even a guest. When we’re in the design center and a guest happens to stop by, we will get their opinion, too. We’re going to ask questions like what neighborhood are you from, who are you shopping for or are you just looking around.
It’s all a work in progress. A design usually has multiple iterations before it makes to the shirt.” (All shirts are made in the U.S.A., are pre-laundered to minimize shrinkage, and the normal price point averages around $23.)
So many ideas get floated, in fact, it’s almost difficult to keep up.
“We want to know what our store is lacking and possibly provide that in the future,” Lising says. “Honestly, by Christmas we should have double the designs. I think we have around 65 and it should be more like 120 by the holidays.”
In addition to the “Oaklawn” shirt, Bullzerk is known for its designs that reference neighborhoods, and Lower Greenville is no exception … which Lising embraces. He’s not only worked in the area, but has lived there for more than six years, and his abiding love — and insider’s perspective — for the evolving neighborhood comes through in another of his shirt designs, Lowest Greenville, New Look, Same Great Neighborhood.
“If you are familiar with Coca-Cola they have a similar phrase,” Lising says. “I wanted to give that sort of treatment because the neighborhood has changed. It’s the same awesome place to go and hang out but the look of it is different. We’re attracting different people from all parts of town, including gays. I have heard people joke that it’s the new Uptown and I really don’t know if I like that.”
Attending high school and college in Montana, Lising moved to Dallas as a young man because he wanted the culture and community that comes with city life, not to mention career opportunities.
“Whenever I say I am from Montana most people are surprised — maybe they don’t expect an Asian to be from Montana; I don’t know. As a young, gay man, everyone is closeted and there is one gay bar four hours away. You want it to be more accessible. But I still love Montana … though Dallas is cool.”
Lising volunteers as a member of the street team for the Promote Love Movement (#promotelove) as a way to give back to the community and spread the message of love.
“What I love most about this movement is unlike some of the other movements that make themselves exclusive this one is more inclusive. We are talking about promoting love of all kinds no matter where you come from. The founder is one of our clients and a good friend — Steph Grant, a top lesbian wedding photographer,” says Lising.
Lising plans for the immediate future are to continue to grow with and alongside Bullzerk as they are opening a second location at the Farmer’s Market in October geared towards Dallas tourists.
“I will help launch the second store as far as logistics along with managing two store locations,” Lising says. “I have also expressed interest to Dan to be his regional manager as we get more popular and open up more stores and that is going to require someone that has worked from the ground up with the company so he can recreate that same feeling in another store.”
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 18, 2015.