Metro Detroit is no stranger to struggles. In fact, it's the tenacity of residents in the face of difficulties, around which Chris Reynolds has shaped his clothing company's brand, Detroit Life
. The owner and operator of the Roseville-based manufacturer has a store at Partridge Creek Mall in Clinton Township, as well as distributors at downtown Detroit, Troy's Somerset Mall, and throughout Macomb County, but with brick-and-mortar premises facing uncertain futures in the wake of COVID-19, it's online sales and awareness that has sustained his business through the pandemic.
Reynolds shares his experience with Metromode, and explains how a celebrity hip-hop artist stepped in to help during the pandemic.
Metromode: How did COVID-19 impact your business?
During the first shut down of COVID-19 our store at Partridge Creek Mall was closed for two-and-a-half months, which effected in-person sales greatly, but we were still able to get online sales. All of our events that were booked were canceled, which hit the company hard, around 30%-40% loss of profit, however online sales help keep the business stay afloat.
We are now back open in the store and had a pop-up open in [Village of] Rochester Hills mall from October to December, and I had one manager working the Rochester store with one employee. During the holidays, I had three employees working part-time at the Partridge Creek store and I worked the weekends. Partridge is still open every weekend and is going strong and we love and appreciate all our customers that stop in to our store. We continue to wait for events to start back up again, hopefully come this spring.
Hip-hop artist Swifty McVay partners with Detroit Life apparel during COVID-19.What has helped keep your business running?
Online sales helped keep revenue up as well as Detroit Life partnered up with D12 artist Swifty McVay. We collaborated on a Swifty McVay apparel line, he came out with a Detroit Life LP album and "Welcome To Detroit" music video with the cast wearing Detroit Life apparel. Swifty has been promoting and posting about Detroit Life on his social media platforms, which helped the company get more recognition. We also had a Black Friday sale which brought in a lot of sales as well, and I made an appearance on news [WXYZ] Channel 7 which really helped get our name out there.
Now that businesses are reopening, what's the biggest challenge for you?
With business reopening, our biggest challenge is always competitors as well as if events this summer will commence again or not. Doing events helps us get our name out to more surrounding areas in the Michigan area, as well as more sales.
How has the community responded?
After my appearance on channel 7 many customers came into Partridge Creek Mall and our pop-up location and said they heard about us on TV and wanted to help support locals. We get a lot of dedicated regular customers and new customers all saying they love to shop local, and show their love and support for Detroit Life, and they love what the brand represents.
What's one moment that or response or reaction that has given you hope for your company during this pandemic?
Rick Wershe, aka White Boy Rick, came to the store because he loves the brand and movement of Detroit Life. He bought a ton of gear and even bought another customer's purchase (paying it forward) which showed there is love and hope in this world even during a pandemic. Rick wanted to shop and support locals and he is one of many celebrities that have come in and supported Detroit Life. We have had Mark Wahlberg, Royce Da 5'9", and Trick Trick to name a few that support the brand and have done photos or a video in it.
What do you predict, and what do you hope for, for the rest of the year?
We have a ton planned for this year. I started up my two-year-old daughter's own apparel line Simply Sadie to bring joy and hope to all little girls around the world, and we have a motorcycle brand BIKE LIFE 313 as well. I am hopeful that events will open back up this summer and we can have our booths open back up again.
I personally think things are going to turn around, maybe not 100% at first, but they already are turning around, in my opinion. I can’t speak about other brands or companies, but we’re fortunate to still be open and still push forward.