Grand Rapids Company Mitten State GrowsBy Jane Whitttington on January 16th, 2017 /
Michiganders have a distinct advantage when we want to show people where we live. All we have to do is hold up the hand and point to a spot. The geographical oddity of having a state that’s shaped like a mitten also gives rise to a perfect image for use on products that run the gamut from magnets to car decals to hats to clothing to actual mittens. The Mitten State, both a bricks and mortar site and an online presence, sells cleverly designed, well-made, Michigan-centric products from their location in Grand Rapids.
The Mitten State began about six years ago, when friends Will Bransdorfer, a graduate of Michigan State University, and Michael O’Rourke, a U of M grad, started selling their products out of a kiosk at Woodland Mall in Grand Rapids during the holiday season. At the time, they were only selling a couple of designs. However, the kiosk was such a success, both with shoppers and with other vendors in the mall, that they decided to concentrate on making The Mitten State a full-fledged business and expanding their product line.
At the beginning, they concentrated on selling online and to retailers. Continued success led them to open The Mitten State as a storefront in the Eastown area of Grand Rapids. They have since moved to the newly trendy Bridge Street/Westside location.
Sadly, Michael O’Rourke, was killed in an automobile accident a year ago. Scott Zubrickas has joined the business as co-owner with Bransdorfer.
Zubrickas says, “Right at the beginning, we started looking at local colleges and universities as sources of design, often using some retro-versions of their symbols like the Spartan for MSU. We pursued licensing agreements with these schools, not to do their printing for them, but to use some of their old designs and/or logos. The people we were dealing with at the colleges liked the idea and also were well-satisfied with the quality of our merchandise, and we were able to forge agreements with almost all of the colleges in Michigan. They like the idea that we are a local company and that everything we sell is designed, printed and shipped from right here in Grand Rapids.”
The store itself employs five while the warehouse has about fifteen employees.
Zubrickas continues, “We have started moving in to other Michigan designs, like Stroh’s Brewing, General Motors and Red Wings hockey designs. We’ve met with people at MSU to start producing a Tom Izzo-related product and with U of M for a Bo Schembechler design. This brand is all about the great things in Michigan.”
With Grand Valley State University, the MSU Medical School, Calvin College and branches of other colleges and universities in Grand Rapids, the Bridge Street store sees a lot of traffic and online remains an option for those outside of the city.
Everything sold in the store displays The Mitten State logo. Besides both long- and short-sleeve t-shirts, the store sells sweatshirts and hoodies, socks caps, decals and other Michigan related products.
Zubrickas says, “We have expanded our product line to include a women’s line of shirts that are a more flattering fit. We’re also working on developing a line of polo shirts. We’re committed to making a superior product and providing great customer service. We’re proud of our state, and we want what we sell to reflect that pride.”
For more information about The Mitten State, go to www.themittenstate.com