Getting to Know: Division & Co.
We'd like to introduce you to our friend, Andy, of Division & Co, a shop just outside of Chicago that specializes in custom apparel and curated mercantile. If you've seen any of the custom flags, pennants, or hats that O'Douds has designed lately, it was Division & Co. behind the execution of those projects.
With the recent launch of their online store, we thought it would be a perfect time to learn a little more about them and how we can support them.
Tell us a little about yourself, Andy. What's your story? How'd you get your start?
I'm Andy, I'm the owner here and wear a lot of hats, mainly that of creative director. Born in Pittsburgh, raised in the NW Chicago Suburbs, and moved to Rockford about 7 years ago. My girlfriend and partner, Rikki, and I operate the business, and we live just a few blocks away from our shop. Daily life pretty much revolves around the store, we start early, walk the dog to the shop, and start grinding.
I got into screen printing when I was in high school, and worked at print shops throughout the years while I was in a band that spent a lot of time touring. In between tours and print shops, I did what a lot of band guys do and worked seasonal retail jobs.
I think the combination of those three things set me up pretty well for what we do now. The touring really forced me to be in the DIY mindset and make something out of nothing, through that I got into graphic design, merchandising, etc. The print shops helped me hone some artistic and technical skills, and the retail jobs really made an impact on how I communicate with customers and people.
What inspired you to start Division & Co?
DivCo has always been split into halves - we have our production side that focuses on specialty custom apparel and signage, and we have our retail store that houses some of our own products alongside curated apparel and accessories. The custom side of things came from a desire to offer custom apparel to smaller clothing lines, retail stores, etc. who wanted to get into something more custom than screen printing but couldn't afford to break into the high minimums and cost of the cut and sew world. We want to make unique, and super high-quality custom apparel available to folks who don't have the means to be ordering thousands of units.
As far as our retail shop - we lean into the phrase "buy nice or buy twice" in our personal lives, we were tired of accumulating clothing that was made by someone who never tried on their own design, and produced in a place with little care or regulation.
That mindset combined with a love for so many different subcultures - from punk music to cycling to artisan makers and artists - we've been striving to build the store that we want to shop at.
What's the story behind the name and brand you've chosen?
The name Division & Company goes back to our first 'draft' of the business in 2011, we weren't in any place to start a business, but the idea was there. We lived in the Chicago suburbs and lived for fixed gear bikes. In the summers, we'd ride to a Metra station and take the last train into Chicago with our bikes and spend the whole night riding through the city and then take the earliest AM train home. We always ended up on Division St., and in our initial conversations about the brand, we wanted to start happened on those bike rides. Once that name was suggested, it just stuck. It took a few years to get the life experience under our belts to actually launch the company, but the name has stayed with us since.
What have been the biggest challenges you've experienced to date?
This year has been pretty trying so far for a handful of reasons, but I don't think anything can compare to the impact that the COVID-19 Pandemic has had on us and our community. We, along with our local peers and small businesses everywhere are scrambling to find a way to restructure our business to comply with state mandates, be mindful of our customer's and each other's safety, and also keep our business going. It's a guessing game now, it's impossible to anticipate what will happen next. So we do our best to take it day-to-day and support each other (other local businesses) as best we can.
What's your favorite part of your job?
I get to spend all day building a brand that I love with my life partner and my dog, can't ask for much more than that. My favorite thing (and the thing I now miss the most since we've been shut down for 3 weeks) is the interaction I get to have with folks who wander into our shop. Rockford is such an interesting place, it teeters between small town and big city. Nothing recharges me like someone coming in who had never heard of us, and seeing them get excited about the product we carry or the projects we produce. The best part of carrying the mix of products that we stock is that they're all things I'm passionate about, so when somebody comes in and says "You guys sell 35mm film?!" and we can chat about photography for a while, it's the ultimate affirmation that we're doing what we should be doing.
What advice would you give to someone looking to start out in the industry?
Find what you love and give ‘er all you got. When you love what you do, people notice - they get excited when you're excited about what you do, and I think that's the best way to sell whatever you're doing. Spend time with people you admire. And learn to communicate. Be empathetic, understanding, and kind. Everyone you talk to is fighting a battle.
What albums are in heavy rotation for you?
- Slint's, Spiderland
- Head Wound City's, A New Wave of Violence
- Natural Child's, Hard in Heaven
- Marty Robins', Gunfighter Ballads and Trail Songs
- Along with some Converge
What shows have you binge-watched lately?
We've been on a gritty detective kick for a while. True Detective being the reigning champion. We just finished The Sinner, which stacked up pretty good.
Favorite O'Douds product?
The Forest scent soap bar works for everyone, and everyone loves it. Love that solid cologne, too.
What's the best way to support your business at this time?
We just launched a new website with about 100 new products that we're really excited about, since our brick and mortar has been closed for 3 weeks and will continue to be closed for the foreseeable future, we're offering free shipping anywhere in the US.
That concludes our interview with Andy. Make sure you give them a follow on social media and check out their new Webstore. They even carry some O'Douds goods!