Made in Michiana: Niles golf apparel company opening during pandemic
NILES, Mich.-- Our Made in Michiana series is back!
In the past, we have looked at local businesses changing things up, due to COVID-19.
Now, we are taking you inside a company, just getting off the ground, amid the pandemic!
This new company has a name with a lot of history.
“Edward is actually a family name in my family," says self named Chief Bogey Officer and owner, Brian French. "Of the six generations that have lived here the middle name of 4 of them is actually Edward. Actually my son’s middle name is Edward as well. So Edward and Co is a nod to the family history but the Co is for the customers and the community.”
A family name, rooted in a family business.
“I worked at a family company for the past 12 years," says French. “We actually worked at a paper mill. I was a paper salesman for 12 years.”
You might even remember their big brick building right on the Saint Joseph River--the French Paper Co. was a Niles staple and French family company for 150 years.
“Recently we kind of moved on from there and decided hey let's start something new and go a different route," says French.
A new route still founded on family spirit, and now sport!
“My dad and I have always been golf guys and really enjoyed it. Never spent much time with it but we decided let’s look at that and see if there’s something we can do to enjoy golf a little more and make it work too," says French.
Clubs in hand a dream on the fairway--Brian took his shot at launching a new company 7 months ago with the help of his long time friend Bob Ewing, years of marketing experience, and a love for golf.
“We launched about a month ago--so we’re actually about a month into the actual live website," says French.
Starting a new business seemed to be a hole-in-one even during a pandemic!
While the timing may not seem ideal, French says it worked out a lot better than he thought.
“Actually as bad as the timing seems, golf really took of during the pandemic Cause it was really one of the only things that people could do," says French.
Looking at the numbers, according to the National Golf Foundation country wide, rounds of golf played per month are up in all states by at least 2 percent with many seeing increases up to 26 percent.
The notable upticks are actually here at home with many midwestern states, like Indiana and Michigan both increasing play up to 27 percent.
While many American's golf games might be improving this year, their sense of style? French says not so much.
“Most of the golf brands kinda fell into two different categories: one is the old stuffy guys, the traditional powers. The other guys are kind of loud and gaudy and there really wasn’t much in that middle ground," says French.
French wanted a brand that could be worn on and off the links ranging from small accessories, t-shirts, ball markers, coozies, golf balls, hats and more.
Even now 30 days in, the numbers are showing.
“Things are going way better than we thought they would. The sales have done really well, we’ve shipped from the east to the west coast already," says French.
Even with some slowed production on items due to the pandemic, the overall experience for this first time entrepreneur has been positive.
“My whole marketing career has been for something that's really well established. So starting fresh has been a really interesting twist on my approach to things," says French.
An approach and brand French wants to take country wide.
“Post pandemic I would really like to get into events and things like that I’d like to incorporate some travel into it, really take the brand city to city," says French.
All while never forgetting the city that he, his family, and brand all call home.
“Obviously I was born and raised here and that’s one of the big things for me. I really love our area. There’s nothing better than Michiana. I can’t imagine raising a kid anywhere but here. I love Niles. That’s number one for me. Also there is a ton of great golf in the area so it really can’t be better than that.”
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