The garment industry in America all but died long ago. Everyone wants to send the work oversees. It’s been that way for decades. Mathew Hunt decided metro Detroit was the perfect place to buck that trend.
The founder of metro Detroit-based clothing manufacturer GETTEES makes shirts in unused space in his dad’s automotive parts factory in Sterling Heights. He’s been selling them online and at pop-ups. Now he’s expanding.
On Saturday, November 19 Hunt will open his first brick-and-mortar location in the former Mootown ice cream shop at 2461 Russell St. in Eastern Market.
“By building and operating our factory in Michigan, we’ve lowered our production costs and can invest more into the products we make and the people who make them,” the company says on its website.
Hunt’s journey began when he was studying business at Michigan State University and a garment factory collapse in Bangladesh made the news. As he looked into it, he learned more about the safety problems in many oversees factories, and the jobs that were lost to them.
He decided to do something to bring work back to the U.S.
A history with his family’s manufacturing business helped him realize he could blaze a path.
In 2014 Hunt began creating his own homegrown garment business. It took three years to get his first batch of shirts ready.
“The stars aligned, and I could utilize my fortunate position to do something,” says Hunt.
He poured himself into researching making clothes, right down to the materials used. Cotton was the right one, but from where?
He ended up choosing cotton from California because he found it was softer than its southern cousins.
With the material chosen the next decision was where to make the clothing. The factory space was no problem. His father had some from his business that was not being used.
The machines used to make the shirts were the same as those used to sew seatbelts and seats. Before long Hunt was employing 20 metro Detroiters, many of them had sewed materials for those automotive parts.
That experience was an advantage in the early days, but it isn’t where they want the story to end.
“It’s nice that we can pull from the automotive workers, but our goal is to pull in new people,” says Hunt
This goal will likely be more implemented when they open a second location in Detroit at some point in the near future.
Like most new businesses in the 21st century, GETTEES sales began online and the company eventually found itself in the world of pop-ups.
The pop-ups may have been the greatest teacher of all. The ability to touch and feel the material proved an impressive sales tactic.
Buying clothes online may have its virtues, but how the shirt the feels is anyone’s guess. What was the point of using all that California cotton if as many people as possible can’t give feel the softness?
Talking to customers didn’t hurt either. Having people see and inspect a product made in not only the U.S.A., but the Detroit, was a selling point all its own. People wanted to show their local pride and support a local business.
As sales grew, it was obvious GETTEES needed to find a permanent home to sell its clothes where customers can walk in and out all day. When you want a place with foot traffic in Detroit Hunt says one place springs to mind … Eastern Market.
“We want to be a part of the Detroit community,” he says. “It is a shopping destination. It is historic Detroit.”
Fortunately for Hunt his cousin Megan Lewis is co-owner of Devries and Co. 1887 in Eastern Market. She showed him around the neighborhood and set him up with FIRM Real Estate, which helps companies find a location in the market.
She also introduced Hunt other local businesses. Anyone who has ever been to Eastern Market knows the more a part of the community you are, the better you do.
The store will celebrate its grand opening on November 19, at 7 p.m. with a party. The celebration will have a DJ, a made-in-USA bar, giveaways, food, drinks from local Eastern Market vendors and promotional sales.
Editor’s Note: This small business feature is sponsored by Bank of America.
To learn more about Bank of America’s many programs and resources visit: https://www.bankofamerica.com/smallbusiness/business-financing.go.