If while you were ordering a cappuccino at Drugstore Cowboy on Saturday you remarked to yourself, "Hey, that guy over there looks just like Jack White," you missed a real opportunity to meet the lead singer and guitarist of the White Stripes. White has been making trips to Dallas over the last year because he's the lead investor in a designer baseball bat company based here, but Saturday was the first time anyone noticed him.
Along with the company's owner, Ben Jenkins, he spent the day checking out some of Deep Ellum's most popular establishments. They grabbed coffee at the neighborhood's newest coffeeshop; visited barbershop High & Tight ("I showed him the little speakeasy behind there," Jenkins says); and then White, who collects old clocks, bought one at a vintage shop.
Jenkins, who grew up in Dallas and went on to play for the Philadelphia Phillies, started Warstic in 2011. After his baseball career ended, Jenkins pursued a career in graphic and brand design, and eventually he became curious about where those two passions intersect. Apparently Jack White has the same niche interest, because around the time Jenkins decided he wanted to turn his passion project into a serious business, he heard from White's company.
"If you Google design and baseball, you’re going to run into Warstic, so looking back it kind of makes sense that he found us," Jenkins says. He initially just worked with White's company on a small project, but the relationship became more personal once Jenkins began working closely with Detroit Tigers second baseman Ian Kinsler on Warstic.
"He kind of knows Jack because he plays baseball in Detroit and Jack is from Detroit," Jenkins says. "So I joked to Ian about reaching out to Jack about being an investment piece." The joke quickly turned serious when Kinsler said he had White's number, and offered to contact him.
"We flew out to Nashville a couple weeks later and that was that," Jenkins says. At the beginning of 2016, White came onto Warstic as the lead investor, and now he, Kinsler and Jenkins are all co-partners in the company.
Jenkins says even he has been surprised by how hands-on White is with the business. "He’s very involved in it. He feels responsible to it; like he wants to help. He knows there are a lot of people working very hard."
Jenkins' design firm, OneFastBuffalo, put on a last-minute holiday pop-up shop in Deep Ellum on Saturday for twelve brands it represents, including Warstic and SixSite outdoor apparel. The shop was held in a building at 400 S. Hall St. that is owned by Jenkins' friend, but Warstic is looking at Deep Ellum for its own space — planned to be an office/showroom/warehouse combo.
This week Jenkins and White are traveling from Dallas to work on a promotional video project for Warstic, so White offered to come in a day early to attend the pop-up and check out the potential location of the new headquarters.
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"It wasn’t a complete surprise, but it wasn’t really planned to be part of the market," Jenkins says. "But he’s a really sweet guy and knew that we were doing it." During the shop, which closed early at 5 p.m. due to the harsh incoming cold front, White walked around to every booth, introduced himself to the vendors and bought clothing.
"He really, really liked Deep Ellum," Jenkins says.
For White's visit last February to meet with lawyers, Jenkins had called in connections with his restaurant clients to help keep White safe from prying eyes. "I had a lot of clients who were happy to hide us," he says. But when White told him he would be coming to Deep Ellum, Jenkins warned him that this would be the hardest neighborhood for him to fly undetected in. It also didn't help that White has recently grown his signature shaggy black hair back out.
"There are some days where he looks more Jack White than others. Yesterday he was full Jack White."