Skip to main content

CLE Holiday Shopping Guide: Ape Made

7. Ape Made

This summer I went to many local pop up markets, for those of you who follow my blog you know one of my favorite summer markets is the Cleveland Flea. I first discovered Ape Made at the Cleveland Flea.This Cleveland based line of hand screened printed products features many Cleveland themed designs making it one of my favorite companies to shop. I fell in love with their “Cleveland Crest” design tank when I first ventured into their tent at the Flea and they feature many more fun Cleveland designs making them perfect stop for my CLE Holiday Gift Guide.
Ape Made not only features unique clothing for adult they also feature children's wear, some gifts for the home like snow globes and aprons, and even cute tee’s for your pets. For that person who has everything a local tee or sweatshirt makes the perfect gift for anyone on your list.

Ape Made Designs and Goods


A note from April Bleakney, Owner
Taking it way back, the spark that led to me starting my own business happened around 2007/2008 with my “YEAH I’M FROM OHIO” shirt.  The design was a bold, humorous, and defiant reaction to people giving me a hard time about being from Ohio when I traveled or when talking with out-of-towners.  Around this time is when I started printing shirts mostly for fun, for myself and for friends to wear.  It was not until 2011 that I made the full-time plunge with APE MADE as a company.  The positive response I received (and many requests for shirts) was definitely an indicator of the love and pride that Clevelanders and Ohioans feel about their homeland, and likewise indicated to me that it could become a full-time gig.  

Beyond that, there were other external factors that drove me to make that full-time commitment to the business.  I graduated from Kent State at the height of the recession (2008), worked for a few years in the non-profit world as an AmeriCorps VISTA and in youth development and youth arts programs.  As funding for those programs dried up, I worked a string of very horrible jobs, sometimes up to three at a time, struggling to make ends meet and not happy with the way my life was going.  Basically, it got to the point where I felt I had nothing to lose and decided to take that risk to working APE MADE full time (no seed money or space BUT leftover screen printing supplies from college and a basement at my home in Kent that I could work in).  

*On a more personal note, my grandfather who I was very close with was diagnosed with brain cancer during this time.  He was one of my biggest supporters and always urged me to pursue the arts and start my own business.  His decline and death was a stark wake-up call, reminding me what was really important in the broader scheme of life.  He died in February of 2011.  I quit all my crappy jobs in March of 2011, and registered my business in his honor (and on his birthday) of May 2011.

I think the DIY movement is strong in my generation because we were not left with many other viable options for employment due to the economic downturn, especially in this region.  I feel this mindset transfers over to a somewhat defensive love of our region as well, creating the market for these kinds of goods.  I never expected for APE MADE to be so successful financially, I honestly thought that I could scrape by, the way I had been scraping by working the string of frustrating and unsatisfying jobs, only I would be able to do something creative that I loved and (hopefully) have a happier existence overall.  I’m still so grateful at how it progressed now after 5 years, and credit my success to the overwhelming support of Ohioans and Clevelanders (and all the ex-pats that order online!).

There has definitely been a huge upswing in Cleveland-centric goods and branded companies, seeming to start around 2008.  I think the recession and lack of opportunities elsewhere made people re-evaluate their home state/city and rethink the possibilities here.  I also feel Cleveland is unique in it’s sense of pride when compared to other cities and regions.  I do travel for shows sometimes, and that overwhelming die-hard sense of pride is never quite as strong as in Cleveland.  Perhaps always being the butt of the joke has made our city more attuned to a self-depricating, self-protective sense of self-regard?

While I love my city, my designs tend to be bold, and not super lovey or cutesy, in regards to the city (i.e. The Land Don’t Scare, Smokestacks, Viva Cleveland!, YEAH I’M FROM CLE, City Seal with a Lake Erie monster hiding in it).  All of my products are hand printed (with my arms) and most of the designs are hand-drawn, I only use eco-friendly water based textile inks as well.  This approach is more authentic to my style and take on the city and also resonates with my customers - a somewhat grittier representation of the town.

I chose Cleveland because how could I not?  Growing up in the region, it was where I wanted to be.  In my opinion, Cleveland’s greatest asset is it’s art scene and nurturing atmosphere for creatives.  The city has so much to offer in the arena of arts and culture, and is a highly affordable town for creatives to work in.  As history has shown time and again, where the artists move in, neighborhoods tend to upswing and jobs are created.  There are so many talented people in this city doing just that.  Of everything the city has to offer, the community of people (artists and makers, and their numerous supporters) is what I love most.

To see all Ape Made has to offer be sure to check them out online at
or on Facebook at,Twitter @apemade, or Instagram: @apemade
Where to buy online:


Follow Styled by Stacy Blog