Ok, Ok, we know Grand Rapids is a decent sized city. We know it’s where Anthony Keidis, Floyd Mayweather, Jr. and Gerald Ford were born. But we had zero idea that it’s where A.K. Rikk’s, one of the flossiest menswear stores in America is located. Guys, we aren’t kidding. This place is no joke.
A.K. Rikk’s began as a menswear store in October of 1987 with 2,500 square feet. It was well known for bringing niche European brands to the Mid West and being quite successful at it. 25 years later in 2012 they built a brand new building and expanded into womenswear and art as well as furniture (this is Furniture City after all). There is also an event space and a 25,000 square foot park behind the building. Yeah, these guys know how to throw a great party. As their President Jim Murray explained to us, “We know who we are but we are not afraid to change or adapt to connect with our consumer.”
We spoke to Jim to hear more about their ‘fashion campus’ in Grand Rapids.
Where did the name come from?
The story is that A’s and K’s were the strongest letters visually in the alphabet. So Rick was changed to Rikk and A.K. were the initials of the first buyer Rick had working for him here. Her name was Annie. The best part is having a company starting with ‘A.’ puts us at the top of every list!
Are there other stores that inspire you guys?
-Collette in Paris because of their exceptional curation. We love the idea of mixing clothing, design, furniture etc.
-Bergdorf Goodman in New York is a one store operation and they pride themselves in making the single store a great store, the best. We could have been three small stores with the money spent on this is one big store but we like the idea of building one experience better than any other. Don’t get me wrong – we dream about having multiple stores or another outlet for sales but this store is our number one priority. Until we know we can build an equal experience without taking away from this one we will hold off.
-Opening Ceremony because they create an image and are not afraid of who they are. And they have such a diverse group people working for them.
How have you grown so big in a smaller town (compared to New York and L.A.)?
Well there are a lot of us who care about fashion but we love living here too. We don’t want to move to New York or L.A., so we have created this ‘mecca’. When we started in the 80s we garnered an excellent clientele and now we have that customer plus his wife plus his kids. That is one reason we bring in introductory price ranges like Theory to the mix so a wide range of people can still shop here. Another reason we have done so well is because we literally listened to the customer and grew according to their tastes and it has worked for us. Whoever we are going to be in five years will be customer focused.
We do have a lot of corporations like Herman Miller, Wolverine, Amway and Kellogg, so many of the CEO’s shop here as do their wives, kids and co-workers. We also get people who have been loyal customers and moved to other cities and they miss our service and our brands so they end up continuing to work with us. One of our top ten clients hasn’t been here since 2007 and lives in New Orleans. Let’s say we were Trunk Clubbing before they were around! One of our mottos is, “We want to make people a better version of themselves.” So many stores want you to look like them, and that is not how we operate.
You must buy differently than others around town?
We go to market to buy the best of the best, at many price points. The retail of a garment, bag or shoe does not deter us from making the purchase for the store.
And you have this amazing event space.
Yes, another competitive advantage we celebrate is involving our client in a culture. We love to party. We understand we need to meet friends of our clients and the best way to do it is to get people talking about us. So we throw parties… all the time. One of which is the annual Runway for Charity event every spring. We raised just under $300K this year and that brings our total in two years to a half a million raised for the local Children’s hospital.
What is next?
We have many vendors like Eton, To Boot and others that have become an essential for our clients over the years so we are bringing them all in on one day for a massive trunk show on Oct. 7th. We are excited and details of the event will follow soon.
Our dream trunk show that we have been trying to coordinate for a while is a trunk show with Isaia on the balcony of their showroom. The collaboration would be with Herman Miller but the invitation would extend to our best Isaia consumers over the past few years. It will be a chance to say thank you and also an opportunity to think differently about how we approach our business and connect with our consumers!
All photos courtesy of Brad Gillette.