Editor's Note: This story has been updated to reflect the location's grand opening date.
If you're a St. Louisan, it's likely you've seen someone sporting an Arch Apparel shirt (most recently St. Louis native Ellie Kemper on the cover of our November issue). Most of the apparel line features a simple "STL" within a circle, and the brand has gained attention through word of mouth, social media, and numerous pop-ups. Now the clothing company is expanding, announcing via social media and its website that the brand will be debuting its first brick-and-mortar retail space (2335 South Hanley) on April 13.
While a brick-and-mortar location was always the plan for Arch Apparel, it wasn't going to be a reality any time soon. But the way the St. Louis community banded together after the infamous cancelation of 2018's LouFest, owner Aaron Park says, played a role.
"We budgeted what we could anticipate for sales at LouFest. However with the cancelation of LouFest that week, we quickly switched and put on Arch Fest at what was our location at the time in Crestwood. Because of the turnout and the support we had from people, we were able to well exceed what we would have done at LouFest," Park says.
Essentially, the profits of Arch Fest took their plan and "sped it up six to nine months." Now, the St. Louis–inspired streetwear has the six full-time and about 12 overall employees working to open the shop.
"I don't feel like it's necessarily sunk in, and I say that because we are on such a short turnaround time from when we get keys to when we want to open, that it's basically all hands on deck," Park says.
He jokes that the new location in comparison to their previous location will be "like night and day." The Crestwood location is about 700 square feet with no natural light. "It was never really set up for retail experience. However, what we're building out now is a much more retail-friendly building," Park says.
Searching for the perfect location, Park wanted a cement floor and industrial-feeling space in Brentwood. After looking at a couple of former gas stations, the team found a building that housed artists' working spaces. Already having that industrial vibe, the team will take it a step further by completely gutting the building's interior, stripping it back to exposed ceilings and brick.
The South Hanley Road location will offer roughly 3,000 square feet of retail space, with 2,000 to house an office side. Park is currently reaching out to customers and asking what they'd like to see in the first shop.
"We're trying to create a space that is like something we haven't had in St. Louis before," he says. "[We want it to be] more of an experience than just a retail shop or a boutique you'd go into and buy a piece of apparel, a hat or something, and just leave."
Must-haves for the location? A basketball hoop, wall murals from local artists, and different locations in the store that will engage with customers, such as dressing rooms that might even be referred to as the "Gooey Butter Cake" dressing rooms, Park says. He is also planning to insert a white 8-foot wall—dividing the shop from the offices—on which every customer will leave a thumbprint. "Those people are then part of our business. We want to bring some fun, creative things, so that when people come to us they get to experience our culture and who we are as a business and a brand."
But don't worry, Arch Apparel isn't doing away with the pop-ups. "We definitely still want to do them," Park says. "It's an amazing way to connect with our customers and have a footprint at those important events. There's going to be an element of doing less pop-ups, but the mainstay ones, we will be there for sure."
From here, the team's shopping list is growing as they plan for two to three weeks of construction, merchandising, and painting, with a hopeful grand opening on March 9.
"Sometimes, I don't think the community aspect like this exists everywhere, like what happened with LouFest. In some other cities that just becomes page three news, and the next day it's never heard of again," says Park. "But people felt something here and came out and supported us, and it's changed the whole course of our business."