How Opened a Brick-and-Mortar Store in Chicago

November 2, 2012

9:00 am

Before, ZipFit was just a website where you could find great-fitting men’s jeans. Today, they have a retail store on North Michigan Avenue in downtown Chicago. And they did it in true startup fashion: in just 3 months.

Founder Liz Kammel wanted to open a brick-and-mortar store to help connect with customers and introduce them to the ZipFit model. But it turned out to be a whole new challenge. “We were here until 2 in the morning many nights,” says Kammel. “That was definitely draining.”

They started by scouting locations, and literally camping outside to count the number of pedestrians in their target demographic. After selecting the store, it took three weeks to turn the interior – which was once a Hello Kitty – into a sleek jeans shop for men, with a little help from an architect friend. And they had to buy everything: cardstock paper for size labels, mirrors, speakers to fill the store with music, a coffee pot to keep everyone going, and the materials for a “Jeanous Bar.”

Meanwhile, Kammel started meeting with jean sellers to help stock the store. After tons of cold calls, introductions, and fashion shows, she has an array of styles: from 7 For All Mankind to Bleulab, Agave, and Fidelity.

The store opened its doors on October 1. It has no window display, only ZipFit’s seamstress working on alterations. Kammel and her team have taken to waving at everyone who peeks inside. When a customer enters, they’re greeted by an iPad where they answer a few questions to get a size recommendation. Then, they try on the jeans – Kammel’s favorite part.

“My all-time favorite thing is when someone walks out of the fitting room,” says Kammel. “They have this smile on their face where they’re confident again and they feel good about themselves.”

ZipFit can hem the jeans and ship them to you for free, or you can pick them up in the store later. The idea is that customers will get comfortable with ZipFit’s recommendations, then start buying their jeans online (the new site launches within a month).

If all goes well, you’ll see more ZipFit Denim storefronts in Chicago in the future.

Store hours are Monday-Saturday from 10:00 am-9:00 pm and Sunday 11:00 am-7:00 pm.

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Kira M. Newman is a Tech Cocktail writer interested in the harsh reality of entrepreneurship, work-life balance, and psychology. She is the founder of The Year of Happy and has been traveling around the world interviewing entrepreneurs in Asia, Europe, and North America since 2011. Follow her @kiramnewman or contact [email protected]

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