Carhartt to bring rugged brand to trendy Midtown

Photo: Rendering from Carhartt©
Carhartt, the 126-year-old Michigan maker of rugged jeans, jackets and work apparel — yet now also finding new fans in hipsters who value authenticity — will open its first Detroit retail store in late May or early June.

Dearborn-based Carhartt will announce plans today to lease a three-story building at 5800 Cass Ave. in Detroit's Midtown area, just south of the I-94 freeway, which will house the flagship retail store and an attached parking garage with 75 spaces.

"We have long had a desire and need to open a store in our company's birthplace and what many of us at Carhartt consider our own hometown," said CEO and Chairman Mark Valade, the fourth-generation head of the family owned company founded by Hamilton Carhartt in 1889.

Carhartt's plans are the latest in a string of retail and construction activities in the Midtown area, ranging from a Whole Foods Market to the HopCat craft beer bar, Selden Standard restaurant, Shinola watches and bicycles and the entertainment district taking shape around the Ilitch family's new hockey arena project.

Carhartt, with 4,900 employees worldwide including more than 400 at Dearborn headquarters, has long sold the vast majority of its products through wholesale outlets, but began establishing Carhartt-owned retail stores about five years ago — and now has 16 such locations nationwide.

"We had a lot of people asking when we would have a Michigan store," said Tony Ambroza, Carhartt's senior vice president of marketing, "and since the beginning, we've been trying to find the right location. We always felt the first one in Michigan should be in Detroit."

The long-vacant, 51,000-square-foot art deco structure in Midtown was built in 1928 and listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1986. It housed the Marmon Motors auto dealership and later Cass Motor Sales. Carhartt will use the first floor for retail; plans for the second- and third-floor renovations haven't yet been decided.

Carhartt has experienced strong growth of late, adding 1,300 workers in the past three years. The private company does not usually make its financial numbers public, but said in late 2011 that total sales then..... Continue reading .....

By Tom Walsh, Detroit Free Press Columnist  

Contact Tom Walsh: 313-223-4430 or twalsh@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @TomWalsh_freep.  

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