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Shortly after they learned of 20/20's Chapter 11 filing, Stock and Truax discovered that Fred Brooks, a sporting-goods industry veteran and Tse's minority partner, had won the Zubaz trademark as collateral when 20/20 defaulted. Relieved that their brand wasn't fully dead, Stock and Truax called Brooks and immediately secured the worldwide exclusive license for Zubaz. They dabbled with the brand for a few years, but with failure still a fresh wound, weren't ready to plunge in and fully try to rejuvenate it.
Then around 2008, Stock and Truax began to sense a pent-up consumer demand for retro styles dating back to the Zubaz era, and decided to announce their full-on comeback to the media. In 2010, they purchased the trademark itself from Brooks, which gave them complete rights to the brand. Recently, they've partnered with Florida-based Dreams, Inc., a public company with plenty of capital, whose sister company, Fanatics, runs a sporting goods e-commerce operation serving major department stores like JC Penney.
"There's an actual game plan now as opposed to it just blowing up," Stock says.
Increasingly, Zubaz seems to keep cropping up in highly visible places. Mark Wahlberg will be sporting them in Pain and Gain, a movie about bodybuilders coming out in 2013. Ryan Umane, a contestant on the popular Fox TV series Master Chef, wore a red-and-white pair of Zubaz on the show. And a Minnesota Twins commercial that first aired this April gave Zubaz some serious air time. Featuring retired first baseman Kent Hrbek as "The Big Hrbowski," the commercial depicts Hrbek wearing Zubaz shorts at a bowling lane à la "The Dude" in the Coen Brothers' The Big Lebowski.
The fact that people now seem to be wearing Zubaz ironically doesn't bother Stock and Truax one bit.
"We're not Calvin Klein, we're not Tommy Hilfiger," says Truax. "We've never taken the fashion side all that seriously. It's all about the fun."
On the street outside of Comet Clothing, Stock walks the perimeter of a van formerly used to transport the handicapped, which is now professionally wrapped in zebra stripes and the Zubaz logo. Once he decides that it looks good enough to present to Twins fans outside of Target Field on this bright summer day, he climbs behind the wheel. The Zubus is ready to roll.
Electronic dance music blasts from several speakers affixed to the outside of the Zubus while pedestrians stare in disbelief. As Stock navigates along the streets of downtown Minneapolis, faces look up from their sidewalk café lunches to gape. Two teenage boys dance to the music and laugh. Nearly everyone smiles.
After driving in several circles, Stock finally finds an empty parking spot. Before he's even fully parked, two teenage girls run up to the Zubus, followed by a group of adults. Stock reaches into the box and hands zebra-striped hats to the girls and zebra-striped beer cozies to the grown-ups. A crowd of people line up outside the Zubus as Stock hands out zebra-print headbands and Zubaz-logo T-shirts.
"Whoa, Zubaz are back!" one of the adults murmurs appreciatively as he gathers the brightly colored swag.
Then a pack of young men in their 20s approaches, raucous and ready for the game. Stock has gotten halfway through the box of merchandise and he's now down to product that looks much more substantial.
The young men hustle up to the Zubus and greedily reach in. Stepping away, the first guy to the window triumphantly holds his bounty high above his head. His friend looks at him with wide, excited eyes.
"Are those pants?!" he asks, voice rising. "Are those fucking pants?!"