Working in the City: Burlaep Print & Press

For the Love of the Outdoors

When a couple of college students started a small-scale fundraising venture in their free time, they had no idea it would one day become a successful business. We spoke with owners Cleat and Lauren Morris to learn more about their eco-centric entrepreneurship and the heart behind Burlaep Print & Press. 

By Catherine Smith  /  Photography by Emily Pérez Long

Burlaep Print & Press is an eco-friendly outdoor apparel and custom screen-printing shop. Their expansive building houses a retail storefront, a coffee and craft beer lounge, and a screen-printing warehouse in the back. It’s hard to imagine that this business, which has amassed a cult following, got its humble start in a basement, but owners Cleat and Lauren Morris say Burlaep was initially a small “passion project” that grew into much more. 

The passion project that would eventually become Burlaep began at Mississippi State University (MSU). “It actually started when my roommates and I started feeling guilty about the way we were spending our spare time. We were pretty ashamed of how much time we burned on a weekly basis playing video games,” Cleat laughs. In an effort to do something more productive, they came up with a plan to make t-shirts and use the profits to support a small, coffee-farming village in Honduras. “We were buying bulk basic needs and distributing them door to door. The main things we purchased were rice and beans that came in huge burlap bags,” Cleat explains. “We were able to partner with them on several different projects before our main contact moved back to the United States.”

So, what brought Burlaep to the Scenic City? When they weren’t busy doing charitable work in Honduras, Cleat and Lauren had started filling their time with weekend trips from MSU to Chattanooga, drawn in by the many outdoor activities the city has to offer. “Eventually, we embraced the inevitable,” Lauren laughs. “We packed up all our stuff, including our screen-printing equipment, and settled down in Chattanooga. That was about eight years ago, and we’re even more in love with this city now than we were then.”

The couple found a niche of like-minded individuals here, where many residents enjoy the outdoors, and Burlaep was officially born when they began printing outdoor apparel with the equipment they’d brought to their new home. “We ran Burlaep out of our basement from 2015 to 2020,” Lauren explains. “The community really seemed to enjoy what we had to offer, and before long, it became a full-time job.” In fact, their products became so popular that the couple opened a brick-and-mortar location at an impressive 7,700-square-foot site in Chattanooga’s Southside. 

latte art at Burlaep Print & Press

 

Though custom screen-printing is still their bread and butter, Burlaep offers much more than that today. “We have a huge selection of outdoor-inspired apparel, great coffee drinks, a great selection of beers – both on tap and in cans – and some of the best eco-friendly screen-printing services you’ll find this side of the Mississippi,” says Lauren. In fact, everything at Burlaep, including the coffee shop, is as environmentally friendly as possible. “We’re totally focused on being eco-conscious. We know that the decisions we make in business ultimately affect the outdoor areas and activities we love to be a part of,” she explains.

Wall of screen printing inks at Burlaep Print & Press

 

Though Burlaep has come a long way, the business stays true to its philanthropic roots to this day. “We partner with several outdoor organizations that exist to acquire, preserve, and maintain access to hiking and climbing areas,” says Lauren. “We also offer a collection of products on our website that, when sold, help purchase and protect two square feet of outdoor recreation space. So far, we’ve been able to help protect nearly 20,000 square feet of outdoor recreation areas through our contributions.”

Whether you visit Burlaep to shop, sip, or socialize, Cleat and Lauren want you to feel included in the community they have built. “Our main focus is to make you feel welcomed. We want returning customers to know that they can rely on us to consistently greet them with a smile, stellar service, and a high-quality coffee drink … or beer … or outdoor swag … or print work,” Lauren laughs.

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