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Michigan themed t-shirt company to open retail shop in Eastown

A popular Michigan inspired t-shirt graphic design company, The Mitten State has set its sights on the Phoenix building in Eastown. The retail shop will be the company's first brick and mortar retail outlet.

/Eric Tank

Underwriting support from:


The Mitten State retail shop

1502 Wealthy Street

Production facility

Production facility /Eric Tank

Phoenix Building

Phoenix Building /Eric Tank

The Mitten State, a Grand Rapids based t-shirt design company, will be expanding its operation to include its first retail outlet in Eastown. 

Located in the LEED certified Phoenix building at 1502 Wealthy Street, the 1,600 square foot space sits adjacent to All City Kicks and across from Yesterdog. 

"Our aesthetic is kind of a throwback, nostalgic, and I think that's a pretty good fit for Eastown," says Will Bransdorfer, co-owner. "Being across the street from such a landmark -everyone seems to know where Yesterdog is- was a huge draw too." 

Tenant improvement has already begun on the space with minimal work needing to be done. Repainting the walls, removing a glass partition from the entryway and adding fitting rooms will ready the space for furnishing. 

"We're going to try to inject some history into the space, make it feel as authentic and nostalgic as possible," says Bransdorfer. 

For example, he shares that he would like the decor to be unique, with touches like outfitting a retro Vernors vending machine in the shop.  

Up to 50 retailers statewide sell The Mitten State products. Last year, The Mitten State did a pop-up shop on Monroe Center during ArtPrize that Brandsdorfer says was successful. He says that half of all online sales are from Michigan, the other half from people who have moved away. 

The initial business model, started back in 2006 as a general t-shirt company by friends Bransdorfer and Mike O'Rourke was to keep sales strictly online to keep overhead to a minimum. In 2009, with the success of their only Michigan themed shirt, the company evolved to target the niche market of Michigan themed, retro graphic designs. However, sales were- other than for a stint at the Woodland Mall utilizing a kiosk during the busy holiday season- strictly online. 

Why change now?

"Unless you have that tangible experience, people are never going to get that full branding effect. For us this is a really big opportunity to get that message across," says Bransdorfer.

The Mitten State currently operates out of Comstock Park where they do all the design work and distribution. All the printing is done downtown. The production site will remain for now while the Eastown location will serve primarily as a retail outlet.  

When asked about how he feels about community engagement in the Eastown neighborhood, Bransdorfer replied, "We're really excited to be a part of the community in as many events as possible."

The Mitten State has doubled in revenue every year since 2009 and is currently working on expanding its collegiate line to include Wayne State, Eastern Michigan University and University of Michigan.

They hope to open shop in Eastown by mid-October.

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