EC Road Trip to GR
Ann Arbor and Detroit are two cities that are conjoined by I94 and both of which are where the roots of Envolve Clothing (EC) began. While our marketing has heavily been focused on Southeast Michigan, we decided to take a trip to Grand Rapids in an effort to better understand the west side of the state and what it has to offer.
Our trip began in a blacked out SUV (to stay under the radar of our fans of course) on a Saturday morning. We set off with the intentions of exploration and interest of collaboration, both of which were achieved. A quick two hour and fifteen minute ride brought us to the heart of the city. There we parked ourselves on the outskirts and packed our bags for an interesting afternoon.
Like all great explorers, we began the expedition at a local watering hole with the intentions of badgering the staff in finding where two guys who own a clothing company could find some smaller boutique shops. While the bartender kept us engaged, it was the make your own bloody mary bar that really got the conversation started. She explained to us that Grand Rapids is still attempting to find its identity as Michigan’s second largest city. She also said that we needed to check out the east side of Grand Rapids. We took this information, and what was left of our sobriety, and continued on our journey.
During the research phase, we found a cluster of shops in a building called MoDiv. MoDiv stands for the location of the building, which is the corner of Monroe St. and Division St. MoDiv houses a spectrum of smaller stores, including two that we were very interested in checking out, Chai Boutique and Off the Cuff. Both establishments where owned by a husband and wife, Len and Sarah Ables. The great part about the two stores is Chai Boutique is only women’s clothing and Off the Cuff is men’s, both with affordable prices and unique finds. We were able to talk to Sarah about both businesses, the uniqueness of having a male focused boutique, and the overall trends of the city. She was very helpful in guiding us to other locations that encompass the theme we were looking for.
Eastown and Bound
We continued our journey eastward, per the direction of Sarah. There we began seeing the change in scenery. Tall buildings became Victorian homes, two lane streets became one, and before we knew it Pat and I looked at each other and wondered if we were back in Ann Arbor. No, this wasn’t Ann Arbor, this was Eastown. We parked on the street and two stepped in to The Winchester. There we felt at home. The walls were covered with local artists, the food came from the garden out front, and the beer was as micro as the biology class I took at college. At The Winchester we talked to John, who just came back to Grand Rapids from a long sabbatical. He explained the culture of this part of the city. In a location that some would consider dingy; local artist, college students, and entrepreneurs came together to create their own identity. In our eyes, this is what we wanted to see, independent, creative, and youthful area on the brink of something big.
Overall we viewed this exploration as a massive success. We set out to explore an unknown region and came back with a wealth of knowledge of what the city of Grand Rapids can offer us and in turn, what Envolve Clothing can offer the city of Grand Rapids.
A huge thanks goes out to all the great individuals who helped guide us through the journey. Sarah Ables at Off the Cuff and Chai Boutique, Amanda at Bar 25 for giving us our first direction on where to go (and the first bloody mary), and finally John at the Winchester.