Be the Bay online store features t-shirts with slogans that promote the health, food and beauty of the Chesapeake Bay.

Be the Bay online store features t-shirts with slogans that promote the health, food and beauty of the Chesapeake Bay. (Courtesy Be the Bay / January 17, 2013)

They sell t-shirts that in turn help Chesapeake Bay restoration efforts. That's the focus of a Glouceser Point, Va.-based business that's finished its fifth – and largest – year in 2012, according to a news release.

“Be the Bay is about celebrating the best of the Chesapeake Bay,” says president and founder Paula Jasinski.

“We’re overwhelmed by the last five years, how far we’ve come and how the community has embraced our mission – live it, love it, take care of it,”

Paula and Dave Jasinski founded Be the Bay in 2007. Both marine biologists, they wanted to create a sense of ownership around protecting the Bay.

“Be the Bay not only means considering the Bay in day to day life, but also is an attempt for us all to build more of a sense of place around the Chesapeake region,” Paula says in the release.

In the beginning, Be the Bay had a handful of designs, ranging from “Have a Nice Bay” and a Deadrise workboat. Part of the designs then – and still today – include both the art and a narrative of why the item is important to the Chesapeake Bay. The Deadrise, for example, is the boat of choice of Chesapeake Bay watermen and fishermen.

“The stories are important,” Dave said. “Knowing the history of and the reason why we should care about and protect things like the blue crabs, watermen, rockfish and oysters are part of what Be the Bay stands for. And since we donate at least 10 percent of our profits to Bay restoration projects, it helps connect us all to the Bay and helping restore it.”

In 2007, Paula and Dave began selling their work at farmers markets and festivals throughout coastal Virginia. They followed up by also building retail clients around the region.

Be the Bay’s designs and products have grown over the years, too, to include blue crabs, oysters, sail boats and rockfish. All are depicted on tote bags, t-shirts, sweatshirts, ties, polos, youth apparel and more.

In 2012, Be the Bay’s “peace love oysters” and “peace love blue crabs” were the most popular designs, with the profit sharing from the oyster shirts dedicated solely to oyster restoration.

Last year also saw Be the Bay partnering with additional Chesapeake Bay-themed artists and small businesses.

Thanks to a partnership with P. Buckley Moss – one of America’s most prized living artists – Be the Bay expanded its online store and now offers 17 of Moss’ Chesapeake Bay-themed prints.

“We’d love to make even more of these connections and partner with additional artists and crafters around the Chesapeake Bay,” Paula said. “It’s Be the Bay for a reason. We’re all in this together.”