I live in Pittsburgh. Let's just rip that band-aid off right now. I've lived in Pittsburgh since 2005 but was born, raised, went to college at UNCC and spent the first 23 years of my life in Charlotte. I LOVE Charlotte. I want to move back, but the dynamics of moving my entire life and family from Pittsburgh to Charlotte isn't as simple as I would like it to be. The funny thing is, without Pittsburgh, 704 Shop would never exist.
Let's start with how I ended up in Pittsburgh in the first place. If you've been in Charlotte for more than 10 years or so (and are over 30 years old) you probably remember that all the clubs in Uptown were nicely positioned right in the alley behind College Street. Before there ever was an EpiCentre, Bar Charlotte (the only bar to still exist on this list), Have a Nice Day Cafe, Mythos, Dixies and a block further down the street you found Time Lounge were pretty much your only options. During my college years, I DJ'd college nights at Have A Nice Day Cafe and spent my weekends hoping back and forth between Have A Nice Day Cafe and Bar Charlotte. Eventually, Have A Nice Day Cafe would close and I was splitting time with several other DJs at Bar Charlotte, limited me to being able to DJ one night a week. The nights I wasn't DJing, I was bartending. While I didnt HATE bartending, it definitely wasn't what I wanted to make a career from. DJing was my thing and I loved it.
In 2005, I got the opportunity to go to Pittsburgh to help train DJs for the Buckhead Saloon concept; a move that was supposed to be temporary. Long story short, I met my now wife and outgrew the DJ position I was in. For a couple of years, I was bouncing around Pittsburgh as a freelance DJ picking up gigs and residencies and then about two years ago I started my first business of my own, Marquee Wedding Company. By now, you're probably wondering what ANY of this has to do with 704 Shop. The truth is, not much but I wanted to give you the back story of why I ever left Charlotte to begin with. I certainly didn't leave because I was unhappy with the city, I left because the opportunities kept happening for me in Pittsburgh.
There's a couple of things that Pittsburgh does well. Football, Hockey, Sandwiches and Pride for their city. You've probably noticed that there's no shortage of Steeler's fans when the Panthers play them in the pre-season (or once every 4 years in the regular season). People from Pittsburgh LOVE their city. You could literally print the word "Pittsburgh" in Time New Roman on a shirt and people would buy it, as long as the shirt is black and the ink is "gold." Everything in Pittsburgh is Black and Gold. You might have heard of rapper Wiz Khalifa, even he has a song "Black and Yellow" that still resonates at all the sporting events around town after going number 1 on the Billboard charts back in 2011. There are several clothing companies that do pretty well for themselves in the "412," which is where the idea began for 704 Shop.
After noticing it first in Pittsburgh, I started noticing that pretty much every other major city had at least one major brand dedicated to making clothing that represented the pride of their city, if not multiple brands. What's even more surprising in the cities that had multiple brands were all pretty successful. I asked myself why Charlotte didn't have a brand like this. Are we not proud enough in Charlotte? Let's be honest, we all know the answer to that question.
There have definitely been attempts and even small successes with the idea in Charlotte, however nothing like we're trying to do. We're trying to build a brand that will represent the entire 704 community. The thing is, we cannot do it without your help. Charlotte deserves a brand. Help us make 704 Shop that brand.
Last week, I got to spend a rare week in Charlotte to visit family as well as put some face time in with my favorite city. A ton of work was accomplished in the short week and here's a brief rundown of everything that happened.
My wife and I landed on Sunday and we immediately headed over to South End to check out Tupelo Honey for lunch. If you haven't checked that place out yet, you're missing out ... for real. The rest of the day/evening we spent getting settled for Monday.
Monday we took over the #WeLoveCLT Instagram page. There's an entire blog post dedicated to that here.
Tuesday, Jerri and I spent the whole day getting a ton of things off the ground. We had some meetings with local retail stores about bringing our brand into a physical space so that you can pick our stuff up in person. Good news on that front, it's going to happen and we will officially announce when and where that is happening once we sign the contract.
We also had two interviews for a video series we're starting called Casual Conversations. The video series will be interviews with cool and interesting people around the area that are making Charlotte better. Its called Casual Conversations because instead of having a formal and awkward interview, we just try to have a conversation. Our first interview was with Garrett Tichy, the founder of WeLoveCLT, followed by an afternoon interview with Justin Brigham, owner of Sycamore Brewing.
Wednesday morning was spent tying up some loose ends and relatively boring "office work" and then we set out for some family time on the lake before having a 704 Shop family dinner that evening. Not much business was discussed at dinner which was perfect because we rarely get to spend much quality time together. Its easy to remember how we became such close friends.
Thursday morning I had a brief meeting with Katie Levans at Central Coffee. I can tell you, she's just as awesome in real life as she is on social media. She's in line for us to interview for Casual Conversations as well, be on the lookout for that.
Friday I spent most of the morning getting things organized for the newsletter and working on the website before spending the afternoon bowling at Carolina Lanes with my parents.
Saturday obviously was July 4th and we spend the entire day on the lake paddle boarding, boating and jet skiing. Most of my family was there and Jerri brought his family for 2/3 of another 704 Shop family get together.
Sunday I headed back to Pittsburgh with a ton of work to do.
So here I am, back in Pittsburgh trying to get 704 Shop to a level where my wife and I can spend at least half of our time in Charlotte. All of us are working hard, whether its Jerri and Chris in Charlotte, or myself in Pittsburgh to bring the 704 a brand it deserves.
**You can read about our struggles building our brand so far here. If you want to keep up with what we're doing and how were growing, I write a weekly newsletter that fills everyone in on what we're learning, what's coming next, and how you can help. Sign up for our newsletter here.**