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The Daily Tar Heel

A conversation with Thrill City founder Ryan Cocca

This March has been mad enough to get Thrill City back online — but only temporarily.

Thrill City, a company that produces sports-related apparel, has recently released a few new items for the first time since 2015. Staff writer Hannah Smith sat down with Ryan Cocca, a 2013 UNC graduate and the man behind the brand, to find out what’s up with Chapel Hill's most missed T-shirts. 

The Daily Tar Heel: What has brought Thrill City out of inactivity in these past few weeks?

Ryan Cocca: Definitely the way UNC is playing. I can't lie and be like, "If they weren't winning games it would be as enticing to do it." It gets people excited and it makes people more likely to reach out and ask for it, which is something kind of cool through Twitter, which is a big platform I built up when we had the business and the store was really active on Twitter. So I still have obviously, access to that, it has thousands of followers and when things are going well, or just in general, people use it to reach out and request stuff.

With the tournament, people have just gotten more excited and I had been toying with the idea of doing it. And then like when the "ceiling is the roof" media circus, around that, it was just an awesome opportunity to try to come up with something that people would like. Yeah — it was just a sports cultural, pop cultural moment which is exactly the type of stuff we used to do a lot of so it made sense.

DTH: Where do you look for inspiration for your designs?

RC: (Recent items) have been completely reactive — like almost coming, in both cases actually, because something just happened. So trying to work on things spur of the moment — and, honestly, the bad and bushy was more clever and creative than the "ceiling is the roof" one, and that was my girlfriend's idea, so she gets all the credit. She totally came through on that one. The game ended and she was like, "What if there's just a basketball with eyebrows?" And I was like "That's hilarious," so I started working on that.

DTH: Do you think in upcoming years, if Carolina has other seasons like this, you'll end up doing more gear?

RC: I can never say I'm gonna do it — I feel like I'm always done — but we'll just see. I don't know. If they were to win a national championship that would be like, a pretty fitting note to stop on. For real. For real for real.

At this point, I still have the freedom of time and just kind of looseness to do this on the side, and maybe at some point there just isn't that, and that’s what helps me make the decision. As long as I can, and there's people that like — it’s really hard to say no to that old audience that really wants the stuff and new people who are just finding it too.

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