Threadless Kids, back in its pre-opening days. (Photo courtesy phoebe man's Threadless blog.)
In 2007 the Threadless apparel empire expanded to attend to a younger audience: children. After launching Threadless Kids online, the indie T-shirt company founded in 2000 by Jake Nickell and Jacob DeHart (who left the company in 2007) opened a retail store at Division Street and Wolcott Avenue dedicated to dressing tiny hipsters-to-be. “We have tons of designs for sale, plus the walls are festooned with adorable characters from all of your favorite kids’ tees!” the Threadless blog announced on Dec. 1, 2008. “We’ve even set up an awesome ‘coloring corner’ where the kids can practice up on their design skills.”
With the store opening, says Nickell, “we wanted to raise awareness of our kids line and have a place where you could go to see what it’s all about and experiment.”
However, in March, the store closed down, leaving an empty storefront on Division Street between Elevenzees and Real Naked Food. But why? Nickell said he “made the decision around the same time that we expanded our warehouse.”
Ah ha. Last year, Threadless moved its headquarters from Ravenswood to a 45,000-square-foot space in the West Loop (1260 W. Madison St.).
“As part of that move,” Nickell said, “[we] improved our in-warehouse shopping experience. We thought that, since you can come to our warehouse and shop our entire catalog just a few blocks away,” it didn’t make sense to have the kids-only retail space anymore.
Also, Nickell explained, the kids line isn’t a particularly huge part of their business and makes up less than 5 percent of sales. Still, local parents and cool aunts and uncles are sad to see the Division Street store go.
“I’ve only been in there once, and that was to get some cute shirts for my niece’s first birthday,” said Heather Owen, of no-kill animal rescue shelter One Tail at a Time. “I knew the rest of my family was going to have her covered with cute dresses and all the standards, so I wanted to get her something unique and kind of goofy. … I settled on a T-shirt with a dog riding a rocketship, which was super-cute. I’m not a mom, but it was supposed to be my go-to spot for cute birthday presents for all the toddlers around me.”
Others found the Division Street spot less welcoming. Chicago police officer Sean Hayes and his wife stopped into the store with their son on a beautiful August day last year. “It was dead,” he said, but the 20-somethings behind the counter didn’t even look up from the computer behind the counter. He never went back.
Despite the closing of the kids’ store, Nickell doesn’t discount the importance of the retail shopping experience.
“We have no plans to close our Threadless store at 3011 N. Broadway,” he said. “While 99-plus percent of our sales come through our website, with over 50 percent of them being international, we do still value having a retail presence in Chicago.”