What word do you associate with a peach?

Whether or not you’re from the Peach State, Georgia likely comes to mind. And if it doesn’t, Derek Chitwood is on a mission to change that.

“I grew up picking peaches with my grandpa and I was always super passionate about being from Georgia and it being the Peach State,” says the founder of Peach State Pride, a "clothing company and beyond".

Given his roots, Chitwood says he always felt a strong sense of pride for his home state. What he didn’t have though, was a way to wear it.

“I wanted to create a logo that was essentially the logo for the state of Georgia," he says. "I want people to look at our logo and say, 'That’s Georgia'… and wear that logo and feel proud to show people that’s where they’re from."

That logo is a peach. A Georgia peach to be exact. 

The history teacher hopeful turned unexpected entrepreneur says he was inspired by the South Carolina state flag, a simple design featuring a Palmetto tree and white crescent. He noticed the design during a brief work stint in S.C. after graduating from college. In fact, he couldn’t not notice it. It was on everything, everywhere. He quickly realized the design served as much more than a state flag; it was a symbol of Palmetto State pride.

That symbol of Palmetto State pride was exactly what Chitwood wanted to create for his home state. Upon returning home in 2009, he picked up a pen and paper and sketched a peach. It was simple, yet significant, he says. What better symbol for his beloved Peach State than, well, a Georgia peach?

Little did he know that sketch would eventually turn into an entire clothing line appropriately named Peach State Pride. The collection, which continues to expand into new merchandise including wallets, hats and koozies, is sold in more than 100 stores across the Southeast. Each item sold is stamped with a Georgia peach and sealed with Georgia pride.

Chitwood also sells the Peach State Pride collection in the three stores he owns with his wife, Kari Beth. The newest one, Empire South Athens, opened in downtown Athens, Ga. last fall.

And like the unexpected entrepreneur’s career path, opening the new location presented a few unexpected surprises. 

Peeling Back Coca-Cola History

Everything was going wrong.

The local storeowner laughs about it now, but the exorbitant amount of construction issues they encountered was no laughing matter. Just when the couple thought they would never catch a break, Chitwood’s contractor noticed remnants of Coca-Cola history trying to break through. 

As the contractor cleaned soot off the poorly painted white brick walls, he noticed the shoddy paint job was covering up another painting: an original Coca-Cola mural.

“We love having this piece of history right here in the middle of our store,” says Chitwood, looking back at part of the mural they were able to recover. What’s left today is only a skeleton of its former early-1900s glory, but the history buff says that’s what makes the painted Coke sign a perfect fit for the store.

Chitwood’s affinity for Coca-Cola also began on his grandpa’s peach orchard. His grandma would go into the refrigerator of the peach stand and serve them ice-cold Coca-Cola in paper cups. 

Nostalgic memories like this one are what make Coca-Cola, the iconic beverage that originated in Georgia more than 130 years ago, more than just a brand, explains Chitwood.

“When you think of a brand that has deeper meaning," he explains, "Coca-Cola is at the top of that list.” 

Chitwood hopes to add Peach State Pride to that list one day. “We want [Peach State Pride] to be deeper than just a logo," he says. "We want people to look at our logo and say, ‘that’s Georgia’ and be proud to show that’s where they’re from.”

The Future is Peachy

Derek and Kari Beth Chitwood also want to make their community proud. The couple gives back 15 percent of profits to Georgia charities. In doing so, they hope to resonate with people who care about making a difference and set Peach State Pride up for longevity. 

“Maybe we’re painting downtown murals like Coca-Cola did for decades. Maybe we’re painting murals across the state of Georgia with our peach logo on it,” concludes Chitwood.

Whether painted on a brick wall or sewn on a shirt, the simple peach logo continues to grow as a significant symbol of Georgia pride.

Headquartered just outside of Athens in Historic Downtown Watkinsville, Peach State Pride is currently available in over 100 stores across the Southeast including Empire South in Watkinsville and Athens, and V.F. Chitwood's, in Lavonia, GA. Follow Peach State Pride on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter for more!