The abrupt cancellation of the 2018 LouFest two days before its scheduled start could have flattened Aaron Park and Arch Apparel, a small company that designs and sells St. Louis-inspired streetwear.
Park had a lot riding on the annual music festival that had been set for early September in Forest Park. He owns Arch Apparel, a designer and seller of St. Louis-specific T-shirts, hats and other clothing items. No LouFest meant no clear way for Arch Apparel to move the $17,000 to $20,000 worth of inventory it had stockpiled for the two-day event.
Park and his employees briefly anguished over the situation, then quickly organized a party they named Arch Fest as a LouFest replacement at Arch Apparel’s office and warehouse in Crestwood. Arch Apparel alerted its 30,000 Instagram followers, thousands of whom jammed Arch Fest and bought nearly all the company’s LouFest merchandise.
That money in hand, Park accelerated his plan to grow Arch Apparel from mainly an online business by opening a store for its St. Louis-inspired streetwear. Instead of opening a store by late 2019, Arch Apparel now plans to open the doors in late March at 2335 South Hanley Road, in Brentwood.
“It’s possible only because people support us,” Park said.
He and some employees bundled in Arch Apparel clothes are working alongside contractors to prepare the for-now unheated 1950s brick warehouse for customers. The 5,000-square-foot leased building is more than triple the size of Arch Apparel’s Crestwood facility, which the company has closed.
In addition to merchandise displays, the Brentwood store will offer customers Wi-Fi, music and coffee, Park said.
Before the LouFest setback, about 80 percent of Arch Apparel’s sales were to online customers. Its clothing also is available at a few shops in the area. Arch Fest’s success grew in-person sales to about 50 percent of sales. Park said Arch Apparel was profitable, with annual revenue growth since the company’s founding in 2016.
Park, 34, grew up in Melbourne, Australia, and moved to the United States in 2006 as an exchange student at Drury University in Springfield, Mo. There, he met Chelsea Shepherd, now his wife, who was a student at Missouri State University.
After earning a Drury degree in business and marketing, Park — with Shepherd — moved to St. Louis to be closer to her family. Park became smitten with his new city. After working for an interior design firm, he founded Arch Apparel in part to express — through clothing — his affection for St. Louis.
Park said he initially wanted a T-shirt “that didn’t scream ‘sporting team’ but something I could wear to a game.”
“It started with one T-shirt, and now we have thousands,” he continued.
In addition to its online operation and its soon-to-open store, Arch Apparel has collaborations with St. Louis craft brewers Urban Chestnut Brewing Co. and 4 Hands Brewing Co., plus the Cardinals and Blues, among others.
New for Arch Apparel is a licensing agreement with the estate of Cardinals great Stan Musial to produce this year four T-shirts and two hats. The number of Musial-specific items coincides with his uniform number, 6.
Michael Barnes, president of Stan the Man Inc., said all four of Musial’s children wanted to collaborate with a local company and liked the high quality of Arch Apparel’s clothing.
Musial was 92 when he died in 2013. He was inducted into the baseball Hall of Fame in July 1969 — nearly 50 years ago — and 2020 will be the 100th anniversary of his birth. Barnes said the milestones figured in the agreement with Arch Apparel.
“It was the right time and the right place for a deal,” he said.
Arch Apparel might expand further. Park said he was considering a presence at St. Louis Lambert International Airport and might open a store at City Foundry, the food hall and mixed-use development Lawrence Group is building near St. Louis University.
All this while he and his wife, who works in public relations, are raising their 11-month-old son, Bodhi.
Park and Kirsten Coonen, Arch Apparel’s creative director, said everything the company undertook was done with an eye toward supporting the region. That includes getting all its supplies locally.
“We’re very much pro-St. Louis,” she said. “Anything that supports St. Louis, we’re enthusiastic about.”