Editor's note: The Daily Press will feature a series of articles about local businesses, highlighting their history and what makes them unique. This series will be serialized regularly in the Daily Press.
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ESCANABA — North Coast Apparel offers classy designs with a northern outdoor theme at its store at 909 Ludington in Escanaba and online.Business partners Rachel Larsen and Tyler Johnson began heat-sealing vinyl in their kitchen and advertising on Facebook in 2016, but Larsen said their work has been “Very small operation” early days “It grew really fast.”
Larsen, a graphic designer behind North Coast's unique artwork, set out to create what he loved.
“There were some designs that were inspired by where we live, but they weren’t inherently Yooper.” she said. “I designed it and used vinyl and a heat press in my kitchen. I did that for about a few months.”
In early 2017, North Coast Apparel moved to a downtown storefront. The store may be recognized by its modern signage, window displays, repurposed pallets, or the white and brown hybrid Sophie walking by the door, inviting passersby to come inside. not.
The new, larger space allows Larsen and Johnson to use the rear of the building as a workshop and accommodate a wider range of printing methods. Screen printing is a much more complicated process than vinyl and requires some specialized materials, but the results are long-lasting and many people prefer the inky look.
With vinyl printing, the design is cut from a sheet of material that is more sticky on one side and comes in rolls.negative space is “Weeds have grown” Apply heat to the design by pressing it onto the fabric.
Screen printing involves dividing your design into one layer for each color. Each layer at a time he prints one sheet at a time in black on a transparent sheet. The screen is immersed in an emulsion, which is a light-sensitive liquid. A screen covered with a transparent film is exposed to light to harden the emulsion only in the negative space. Clean the screen and prepare it for use as a stencil for applying ink to fabric.
Larsen learned screen printing at his previous job and brought those skills to his new company.
There is also an embroidery machine, which eliminates the hassle of stitching, but it takes time for Larsen to use a computer to digitize the artwork. She described the process as painful and really difficult to learn.
“It's an art form. It's fun, but it's a nightmare.” She said this about digitalization.
Although the product line has expanded, Larsen “Kitsch gas station stuff” We've added some Upper Peninsula designs that people love. They started embroidering hats and making stickers. The clothing selection has increased slightly, but shirts and hoodies are still the best sellers.
Most of what's sold at the store is made in-house, and Larsen said her pride hurts every time she has to ship something. “And when we order something that we can't order, 99 percent of the time we order it from a Michigan company.” she said. She said Northcoast maintains high standards and doesn't let substandard products out.
During an interview with Daily Press at the store, several customers came and went, but not a single one left empty-handed.
“These guys are the best.” said Bob Stasewicz, who came to buy a present for his daughter. “And would you mind quoting me on that?”
North Coast patrons will likely see Larsen behind the counter, or perhaps one of his employees. Although Johnson has a full-time job elsewhere, he also keeps the books and practices his unique art.
North Coast's walls are adorned with framed posters of attractive people in scenic surroundings wearing North Coast apparel. Models are friends, family, and real customers. Johnson said all but one of the photos were taken by him and sent to him by someone in the West.
Larsen's art can be seen in unexpected places around the city. Her skills are used when businesses want to breathe new life into old logos, or when startups or individuals need help creating a design from scratch.
One of Larsen's designs depicting select buildings in Escanaba (Harbour Tower on the left, Market on the right, and a few stores in between) was purchased by the Downtown Development Authority and can be seen in materials around the city. .
They initially had no intention of taking custom orders, but requests started pouring in early on, and now the majority of their North Coast business is established and owned Main Street businesses for workwear and event supplies. comes from organizations that rely on having their apparel printed. It is run by two Escanaba natives.