How much love can Traverse City really take? Plenty, it would seem.
Though M22 was the first local company to really brand a northern Michigan lifestyle, more brands focused on the city – and region and state – have popped up in recent years. Count among them High Five Threads, Love Michigan, Love TC and coming soon, 231.
For M22, what was just a t-shirt in 2005 is now a sticker, a hoodie, a coozie, a key chain, a pint glass, a dog collar and more. The M22 Facebook page has 17,000 likes.
“Last year it really boomed again,” says Nate Farran, manager of the M22 retail store on Front Street in downtown Traverse City. “The economy is better and the pride is back in Michigan.”
Speaking of state pride, the creators of M22 – Matt and Keegan Myers – launched the Love Michigan brand (with the “V” replaced by a tipped Michigan mitten) in 2010.
“That really took off last year and actually is a bigger brand than M22,” Farran adds. Like M22, it has a full apparel line along with accessories for showing your Michigan adoration.
While Farran and the Myers brothers have watched new locale-based businesses pop up around them, is there a point where enough is enough – or perhaps too much?
Just this past summer High Five Threads, a lifestyle brand that pays homage to the Michigan “hands,” opened its second location in Traverse City’s Front Street Commons. In doing so, it also acquired another locally-focused apparel business, Two Bays, and is now selling that brand as part of High Five Threads.
“I see so many cars with both of our stickers on it,” says Farran of the High Five Threads brand. “The more the merrier in representing northern Michigan as long as people are being original.”
But that originality may be tapped out, says Farran, adding that protecting the M22/Love Michigan brands is a full-time job. “We’ve seen so many rip-offs around the state.”
(However, Farran says to keep an eye out for “Fresh 5,” their latest brand in the works.)
Lauren Beers Creighton is the creator of Love Traverse City, which she launched with a tent downtown during last year’s Traverse City Film Festival.
“Love TC is an appreciation for my hometown,” says Creighton, who moved back to Traverse City after many years away with her fellow native husband and family last summer.
A graphic designer with an entrepreneurial spirit, Creighton says she had such good response from the tent that she opened a brick and mortar shop on Front Street that is celebrating its first anniversary tomorrow.
“Obviously we have a fair share of these kinds of businesses but we’re all doing different things,” says Creighton. “The market will dictate if it’s oversaturation.”
And response has been equally as good to her just-launched 45 Degrees North brand, something that while still local is more universal in appeal, she says.
“It started with just a sticker and two t-shirts and now has a whole line,” says Creighton. “We definitely are thinking bigger with the 45 North brand. We see potential outside of what we’re currently doing.”
Andy Humphrey, owner of 231 Commerce, LLC in Traverse City is in the process of developing 231, a trademark sub-brand of his e-commerce consulting company. He describes 231 as more than just an area code – rather, a celebration of entrepreneurship in northern Michigan and all the reasons to “live where you choose, and love what you do.”