As a designer and small business owner, you have so many different milestones that are important to the development of your brand. One of the most satisfying is when an independent retailer you admire discovers you and wants your products in their shop. Independent shops are small businesses like us who have to make huge sacrifices and investments in brands to bring high quality products to their community. When a shop invests in your brand, they do so because they have a vision and get what you have to offer. It's such a sense of accomplishment and validation for a small brand like mine—not to mention, a huge honor.
For me, Manready Mercantile is the kind of shop I admired deeply and when Travis Weaver discovered my brand and asked to carry our products in his store, I was able to check off one of those milestones. Since then, we've developed a great friendship with Travis, Berlin and the whole Manready crew, and we continue to stock their store with more Slightly Alabama goods along with a few custom collaborations.
Below is an interview full of inspiration and insight into what motivates Travis to build the next great American retail brand. It's a must read for any retail shop, designer or individual interested in American Made.
Date Founded: 2012
Location: Houston, TX
Number of Employees: 10
Flagship Products: Small batch apothecary goods such as candles, lotions, soap, bath products and more.
Number of Brands Carried: 140
It's clear that Manready Mercantile has a mission that's larger than just making and selling products. From your tagline—Work Hard, Live Well—to your focus on American Made brands and the emphasis you place on community at home in Houston and through social media—you're clearly pursuing something more than profit alone. Can you talk a bit about the vision that drives you and what matters most to you?
Most people chase money, I chase a challenge. The challenge of bringing the best craftsmen and makers available and putting them all under one roof. I don’t focus on the big brands, but rather on the smaller, lesser known brands that have incredible stories and burning passion behind their creativity. I’m from a small town and the little guys rarely get a chance and get passed over…I can’t stand that and see it all the time. Stores want the big guys for marketability which is odd to me. What is more marketable to me is a unique story that the public can relate to and that stores can brag about and share through social media. If you have a different approach and ideology on how the retail game works, the general public will see this and support you and thus your brands.
It’s simply a different way of doing business and if more folks got hung up on quality vs quantity, the whole game would change and demand for creativity would rise….thus more and more well made goods….which is what I make and look for in other brands.
Your shop aesthetic, your product designs and collaborations, and even your own sense of style are so unique. It all seems rugged and effortless, and yet very thoughtful. Can you tell us about what inspires you and how that plays out creatively in everything you do for Manready?
Henry Ford once said, "The competitor to be feared is one who never bothers about you at all, but goes on making his own business better all the time."
I don’t look at other stores on how they do things much; I don’t read blogs; I don’t read many magazines; I don’t particularly care what others wear, and I don’t follow trends…at all. I’m from the country and pretty set in my ways and like to do my own thing. I wear things that are simple yet unique in interesting ways. It could be a basic white tee, but it’s going to have a story, even if I’m the only one that knows it. My style changes depending on what I’m into. Right now I’m pretty deep into vintage and Japanese textiles so that’s something that I mix with new items to create something that’s me…not someone else or what some celebrity wore. In the past and at certain times of the year, I wear more rugged clothing because I’m into outdoors and like to hunt and fish. It’s safe to say that I’m not going hunting in vintage patchwork trousers from the 30’s….but then again, maybe that’s not a bad idea if I do. It’s kinda funny to me though on how hard people try to look cool…to me it looks forced and I’m not gonna be that guy. I wear what I want, where I want, and couldn't care less about what anybody thinks about me or my style. As far as the shop, most folks think we have an interior decorator, but the reality is, we just put things up where we like them and go with it. Wish I had a cooler way to say it, but it’s true. The beauty of owning your own place is that you get to do what you want and don’t have to answer to anybody.
When someone walks into the Manready shop, what will the experience be like for them and what are some of the unique things they'll find there?
Our shop is two stories and the below is a lounge and an event space with a giant American flag that serves as a photo opportunity. When you find yourself up the stairs to the shop, you feel like you morphed back in time 100 years and landed in an ol’ school general goods store! Your greeted immediately by incredibly passionate and savvy staff members that fit the vibe. We have the best crew out of any shop that I’ve ever visited and they’ll even offer you a handmade Old Fashioned cocktail while you peruse the goods. Expect to shop raw denim, leather goods, boots, grooming supplies, grooming necessities, small batch apothecary, travel basics, and gourmet pantry type goods…after all, we do make Whiskey Soaked Beef Jerky! Plan on staying a while as you’re going to be overloaded with highly curated vintage goods from around the world and some of the best brands offered and made in America.
When you find yourself up the stairs to the shop, you feel like you morphed back in time 100 years and landed in an ol’ school general goods store! Your greeted immediately by incredibly passionate and savvy staff members that fit the vibe.
What are some of the pieces from your own personal collection that you're most proud of?
Man, where do I start. I love my Vietnam war era US issued OG-107 trousers with hand embroidered daises, my French moleskin pants from the 50’s, my Knickerbocker x Manready collaboration chore jacket, anything that Freenote Cloth makes, my Poglia knives, Boro Note Japanese farmers rope, my Horween shell cordovan flask by Slightly Alabama, bracelets by Fortune Goods, and waistcoat by Fortela. The list can go on, but you get the idea. It’s gotta be unique, and it’s gotta have a story.
Looking toward the near future, what can we expect from Manready Mercantile?
You never can tell what’s going to come up next as I change things daily. Be assured that I have some new collaboration projects and product designs that are going to blow you away. From experience, if you have a clear direction, others will see that and hop on the same train and try to replicate it or anticipate what you’re going to do next.
With me and my business, you’re going to feel like you got hit by a train every time we launch something new…and it’s never going to stop. —It’s like, “how in the hell do these guys find the time?”…but we do..
Finally, what has been the proudest moment for you since starting Manready?
The moment that I realized that the American Dream still exist and that my business is proof. You can grow up poor like me and change your stars. You don’t need a big loan, daddy’s money, or a handout. Go earn it and create something great. When you do, that feeling of pride and worth will engulf your entire body and soul will know that you’ve achieved greatness. As I’ve always said, Work Hard, Live Well.