Founder of the resort line of clothing called Sea Dog, William “Bill” Sparks grew up in the 1950s in Portage Lakes, Ohio, a small town near the industrial city of Akron, Ohio. Bill struggled through school because of a learning disability that is now recognized as dyslexia. At that time, any kind of dyslexia was unknown to the medical field and children with this condition were typically dismissed as simply being difficult or impaired intellectually. Although Bill was told that he would not be able to attend college and succeed, he proved them wrong by earning a master’s degree and becoming the highly successful entrepreneur/co-owner of the Sea Dog line of upscale casual clothing.
With a visionary sense of determination, Bill learned to cope with his dyslexia, graduated high school and enrolled at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art, Philadelphia, PA and honed his already exceptional talent for drawing. Especially fond of Norman Rockwell-style art, Bill initially concentrated on capturing the charming essence of everyday people and their surroundings. After he completed his B.F.A. At the Academy, Bill began attending Kent State University in Ohio where he earned his M.F.A degree. Although he had earned degrees in fine art, Bill still wanted to be an illustrator.
Bill got his first illustration job in the 1970s as an editorial illustrator for magazines like Redbook and McCalls. Responsible for illustrating fiction and non-fiction stories with images designed to make people want to stop flipping through a magazine to read the article or story, Bill drew mostly people for dozens of magazines during the heyday of magazine publications and enjoyed a solid reputation as a magazine illustrator. While teaching Illustration at Ringling College of Art and Design in Sarasota, Florida, Billwas contacted by Disney to do artwork for the Grand Floridian Resort in Orlando, Florida.
Bill eventually developed an interest in the more humorous aspects of drawing and began to notice the graphic t-shirts and other printed apparel worn by people visiting Florida was uninspired and ordinary. Intrigued by the idea that he could create bolder, more unique images to emblazon resort clothing and also be successful at marketing a different kind of graphically enhanced apparel, Bill and his father-in-law Bob Fremon initiated the earliest beginnings of Sea Dog in 1983 by purchasing screen printing equipment.
Bill and Bob wanted to call their new company “Smuggler’s” but decided against it. After searching for names that would better reflect the spirit of the sportswear they wanted to sell, Bill and Bob decided on other names that would reflect the spirit of our sportswear ” Sea Dog “.
During the 16th century, Sea Dogs was the name Queen Elizabeth gave to her Sea Men who were actually part of the English Navy and once sailed the Atlantic Ocean in search of Spanish treasure. It was after her Navy sank the Spanish Armada that she began calling them her “Sea Dogs”. At the start of their business, Bill and Bob printed all images on the front of their shirts and sold only white tee-shirts. On the back of these shirts in between the shoulder blades is where the Sea Dog pirate logo was placed which quickly became recognized by customers. During his travels, Bill would see a stranger wearing one of his Sea Dog shirts and ask the stranger if he knew who had made the shirt he (the stranger) was wearing. The answer was always the same: “Yes, it’s a Sea Dog shirt”. Then, they would point to the logo, which made Bill realize the impact that the logo was making on his customers.
Wondering how a true Sea Dog would appear, Bill decided it would have to have a patch, bandana, earring and a peg leg. He already had the tagline “It’s Easy to Spot a Sea Dog”, so it had to be a Dalmatian with spots. Today, the original pirate logo is hidden on each of the Sea Dog images so…go look for it!
And the rest, they say, is history. Bill and his Sea Dog line of resort wear is now considered a “must-have” by thousands of existing customers as well as new customers who love the idea of Bill consistently creating different Sea Dog images and slogans to embellish his line of classy yet comfortable resort wear.
Recently, Bill enlisted the assistance of Sherry Mfg, Co., Inc and its CEO Scott Coltune to market and distribute all Sea Dog Logo products. Coltune says Sea Dog is a brand the he is proud of and has endless opportunities. Sea Dog (Sparky) is recognized worldwide and has become a collectors item that enjoys a cult-like following. Sherry Mfg. is one of the leading screen printing companies with 60 years experience in the industry and extensive marketing expertise that is sure to bring Sea Dog even greater success in the field of graphic apparel. When asked, Bill declares that Scott has become a true believer and friend of Sea Dog.