If I asked you to list things that are synonymous to American culture, denim would be in the top 10. I personally have no less than 20 pair of jeans; and counting, each of them with different washes, fits and cuts that I use to justify my reason for having so many. In the heart of Downtown Richmond sits a small denim company that has turned making demin into an artform. Part workshop, where if you stop in at the right time you can see a master tailor drawing and cutting denim patterns by hand and jeans being stitched to perfection by seamstresses with years of experience. Part retail shop, where you will drool over every single shirt, jacket, blazer and of course denim that is creatively displayed through the shop. With just one glance at their jeans, you understand why Shockoe Atelier has amassed a cult following of denim lovers who swear by them. I had the chance to sit and chat with the owners of this shop and their matter of fact approach to creating their take on this American closet staple is why I will have a pair of their jeans added to my collection.
What was the inspiration behind opening your shop?
When we first started out we intended this to be a wholesale showroom and but as we stated to make our first pairs jeans we transition into a retail shop, which felt great. We also got awesome feedback as we were developing our jeans, so it just became this thing where it started it feel like a community and we were a part of it.
Why decide to open in the RVA area?
We really love the idea of making things in RVA, making things in America but really at the end of the day it’s about can we make something in a place we want to live in? There’s a financial aspect of it too but the biggest part for us is we wanted to be hands on with the product and be in an area that we love!
Have you always wanted to start a Small Business or is this something you kinda feel into?
Ummm a little bit of both! When I was growing my parents worked in apparel but had a couple of business on their own. I didn’t realize I didn’t like working for other people until I did and it happened that way. One day I was said, “Fuck it! This sucks. Let’s make something”, and that’s how we became a family business. My parents were retired and I had no experience in manufacturing but pops did!
With other denim brands out there, what sets you guys apart?
I think one of the biggest thing is how we make it; it’s very different from how other denim brands are doing it. We take a much more tailor’s approach on how we make our denim…if a tailor made a pair of jeans that’s how they would do it. Other brands go the way of how Levi Strauss made it originally and we didn’t have that same experience. We went with what we knew.
What’s the best part about owning a Small Business in RVA?
I feel like this area has a bad wrap, especially later at night but I just don’t think there is any other area that has this mix of energies happening. During the day it’s all “suit and tie”, at night it transforms completely and when we look at this neighborhood we see what it could be. With the train station and the Farmer’s Market changing, I’m pretty excited about the direction it’s is going in. And this is the neighborhood that made me fall in love with Richmond; the architecture and it’s beautiful, especially in the Fall.
Why was it important for you all to employ people locally?
Everybody employed here lives here and we’ve not had to outsource at this point. When we first started, we employed a lot of VCU student in the workshop, then unfortunately a factory that had been opened for around 50-100 years called Wolff Fording shut down so we went on to hire all of those people who had ton’s of experience and would have probably left the area because there just isn’t a demand for that type of skill anymore. And that has been pretty exciting for us to find those folks. I really want this place to be a place where people can have dignity in their work and make a product that other people recognize and love and they feel proud of it. That’s what I want for myself.
Is your business mainly online, mainly in store or a bit of both?
Its both. Online is the biggest part of our business, but we do a fair amount of business out of the store as well. We kinda look at what’s happening online to make a lot of decisions but some are based on the customers feedback in the store. Look buying jeans suck right; that the number one thing we hear from people and our job is to figure out how to make that easier, how do we make it better. Because at the end of the day when you find that one pair of jeans that you love, that’s the one thing in your closet no matter how much weight you gain or loseis staying there.
Have you thought about expanding or just keeping the one retail shop and your online presence?
It’s where we are right now. I think maybe down the road we would want to expand but then again how do we go into a community and be a part of it without know it. It is something that challenges us, but right now we are pretty happy with where we are.
How does being connected with other Small Business owners help you manage?
It’s huge! There’s a nice kind of emotional support that happens when you can talk about regular day-to-day stuff. When somebody else has had your problem before you, you can learn from them and find out what they did to resolve it. It may not directly apply to you, but it can help you work you way to a solution. And if a customer comes in and I don’t have something they are looking for I can say, “Hey the guys over at Jack and James might have something better for you.” It’s like passing clients back and forth and that helps business.
Now it’s time for some rapid fire questions!
First thing you did this morning?
Look at videos about what happened at Need Supply last night!
Editor’s Note: Robert, Anthony’s business partner said the first thing he did was cry lol!
What is your favorite thing in the shop?
It’s hidden but our first pair of jeans
What are three things you can’t live without?
Coffee, a pad to write on and a half millimeter pen
Editor’s Note: Anthony can’t live without his wife or Robet though he makes it clear they are not things lol!
Last song you listened too?
Something on Spanish radio in the back!
Favorite TV Show?
Right now I’m trying to watch the “Punisher” on Netflix’s. I also really like “This Is Us”!
Favorite Denim company do you love?
Want More Shockoe Atelier
Store Location: 13A South 15th St.