Although many of Capitol Hill’s younger, hipper residents still prefer the wares of Value Village and other thrift shops these days, a new men’s clothing store called Freeman opened on the hill this week that represents a unique approach to independent retail in the age of online shopping: a brick and mortar store born from an online storefront, and one that sells primarily in-house brands to boot.
Scott Freeman, who co-owns the brand and business with Brittany Freeman and Alex Frank, says that the endeavor came about almost by accident after making a single men’s rain jacket for his own use.
“To be honest, we never had plans to make anything more than that first raincoat; we were simply making something for ourselves that we didn’t see offered in the market,” said Scott.
“My brother saw the jacket we made and commissioned a second for himself. This trend continued with friends and friends-of-friends until we found ourselves sewing jackets made to order in all our spare time. This was a fairly unsustainable model for a few reasons, including our sanity. Over the course of a six month period we found our current sewing team in SODO and sourced the parts and pieces that made up our first 100 jackets.”
After their wholesale brand began to take off, the owners of Freeman soon found themselves making new connections with other independent garment producers, all of which are owned and operated in the USA. Soon, they decided to take a gamble in launching a new business venture of their own to give themselves and the connections they’ve made a local platform to operate from.
“The idea is to be that go-to men’s shop in Seattle and to do it in a way that very few people in this country are doing: with all USA made products,” said Scott. “Built around our brand, we wanted to bring together many of the brands we have met during our time as a wholesale brand, many of which have not been offered in Seattle. Focusing on USA made products seems like a no brainer for us. It was the driving force behind building our brand and it seemed only natural to have it drive the look and content of our first retail store.”
According to Freeman, transitioning from an online wholesale brand to a traditional storefront was not an easy one, but although some online entrepreneurs would balk at the prospect of having to design and build a retail outlet, particularly one in a historic locale like the Loveless Building, the greatest difficulty instead came in the form of securing the funds they needed rather than carrying out the work itself.
“As an endeavor in building a retail store, I’d say scraping together the money to get it out of the ground would have to be the tallest,” said Scott.
“Many of our challenges end up being ones that persistence and hard work can overcome, but when it comes to money, that’s not always the case. Fortunately for us, I moonlight as a general contractor/cabinetmaker so suffice to say many of the nuts and bolts related tasks of building out a space were much less painful. This brand and business has always been characterized by a willingness to get our hands dirty. We are extremely grateful with how clean it’s all turned out.”
While the idea of attempting to open a brick-and-mortar store in a city famous for its love of online shopping may seem foolhardy to some, Freeman says that the choice of Capitol Hill and the Loveless Building in particular was a deliberate one. Few neighborhoods boast as much outdoor foot traffic and a love of supporting locally-owned small businesses.
“When envisioning what we thought our first store would look like, the image of it in this space was beyond perfect,” said Scott.
“We really wanted a nice mix of commercial and residential. Our hopes in positioning ourselves so near where people live was that we could combat the extreme lull’s of the midweek or other slow times, just by proximity,” he said.
“While we know that won’t always work, so far the neighborhood has been amazing. Extremely supportive neighbors and we couldn’t be happier. We think the collection of shops/services and eateries in this building specifically are in a really great place. There is a nice draw building-wide here.”