Wearing the town on his sleeve

EVART – Many people tell Steve Mishler he’s going to need a bigger T-shirt.

The owner of Mishler’s Drive-In in Evart has invited more than 1,400 people to his restaurant to sign a Mishler’s T-shirt as a fun way to unite current and former Evart area residents.

Evart Chamber of Commerce president Connie Douglas said the shirt is a great way to unite locals and out-of-towners who used to call Evart home.

“I think it’s a great idea. It’s nice to have people come back,” said Douglas, an Evart High School graduate.

Mishler asked all members of the Facebook group, “You know you are from Evart, Michigan if...” to sign the shirt no matter where they currently live.

“I’d like to see as many people as I can on there,” Mishler said. “Especially if there’s (almost) 1,500 people on (the site). That’d be neat.”

He presented the idea to the group on June 6, challenging members to fill the shirt with their signatures until his restaurant closes for the season in September.

In less than a week, the shirt had around 20 signatures from locals and many promises from former residents who plan to sign the shirt when they visit Evart this summer.

“People say, ‘I’m going to be there in June’ or ‘I’ll be there in July,’” Mishler said. “There are a couple of guys (coming) from Alaska.”

Though the shirt may not be the only reason former residents come back to Evart, Douglas said it provides a fun incentive.

“We’re going to have a class reunion in July and everybody that comes back is going to sign the shirt,” she said.

Since the “You know you are from Evart, Michigan if...” Facebook group was created in August 2011 by Evart resident Bruce Brackett, it has become the place to find information and opinions on anything Evart-related. From pictures of historical Evart buildings to opinions on local dining, the group has created quite a buzz in the city with a population of 1,900, – just 500 more than the population of the Facebook group.

“On the Evart (Facebook) page, Mishler’s is always a topic of conversation,” Douglas said. “The pizza burgers and deep-fried mushrooms seem to be a hit.”

Brackett, who is referred to on the site as “Uncle Bruce,” said he never expected the group to have as many members as it does.

“We’d had seven or eight people the first night who were from Evart, and I thought maybe we’d get a couple hundred and it would last for a few months,” Brackett said.

Ten months later, the group has a membership of 1,485 and is gaining new members daily. The group is open to anyone who currently lives in Evart, formerly lived in Evart or is interested in the Evart area, Brackett said.

“People who live in other states just love it. They love being able to keep in touch,” he said.

As the creator of the group, Brackett was invited to sign Mishler’s shirt before anyone else.

“I wanted to make sure (Bruce) got first billing,” Mishler said.

The shirt is available at the store for anyone who is a member of the site.

At the end of the summer, a photograph of the filled T-shirt will be put on the Facebook page and the shirt may be displayed at Mishler’s or auctioned off.

Mishler hasn’t decided if the shirt signing will be an annual happening.

“I figured if I could get people to sign a shirt, it makes them feel like part of something,” Mishler said. “Who knows where it’s going to go?”