"Hippie" helps SVSU students
February 18, 2008 —
You'll often see students stop and browse through the colorful display of hats, gloves, posters and t-shirts while engaging in conversation with that "crazy hippie dude," Tye-Dye Thom.
Thom lived in New Orleans up until Hurricane Katrina hit. It was there that he acquired his unique nickname from a Vietnamese woman who allowed Thom to sell his merchandise in her shop free of charge.
"She was describing me to someone, pointed and said, 'You Tye-Dye Thom.' From then on the name stuck," Thom said.
Since the storm, Thom has moved to Bowling Green, Ohio or what he likes to call "paradise."
Thom sells his merchandise at many colleges in Michigan, including Oakland University, Michigan State University, and the University of Michigan. He also travels out of Michigan to the University of Cincinnati, Northern Kentucky University and Bowling Green State University. He travels and sells at festivals throughout the U.S. such as the All Good Music Festival, Bonnaroo and Langerado as well.
Thom does all this on the side. In his "real" career, he works for an aerial photography company.
For Thom, selling isn't a hobby as much as it is a commitment.
"I'm committed to helping the next generation of students," he said.
Twenty percent of the gross proceeds go to any student organization on campus to help with funding for activities they may be involved in. This year, Tye-Dye Thom was helping SVSU's Alternative Breaks organization.
Among other things, one of Thom's unique products is the bottle cap necklaces that he makes himself. The necklaces serve as a way to interact with the students and to help send out a positive message, especially about drunk driving.
"The school tells me to come do my thing," said Thom. "And if they have a problem with anything they'll let me know."
This is Thom's second year selling at SVSU and it has proved to be more successful than the first.
"I think that students respond to me very well," he said.
He arrives every Halloween and Valentine's Day week to sell and talk to the students about anything from political issues to the environment.
"It's a small school but it's definitely moving in the right direction."