A Kennewick banker never intended to launch a clothing line that’s gaining popularity across the Tri-Cities.
[blockquote quote="I want to promote Tri-Cities unity." source="Mike Denslow, owner of Love The Tri" align="right" max_width="300px"]
Mike Denslow began selling “Love The Tri” branded clothes celebrating community pride last year.
The best part? All of the profits go toward local charities.
Denslow, 49, a vice president and mortgage branch manager for HomeStreet Bank in Kennewick, said he’s already donated nearly $6,000 to the Boys & Girls Clubs of Benton and Franklin Counties, Domestic Violence Services of Benton and Franklin Counties, Girls on the Run and Fighting Tigers, an organization dedicated to raising money for Lyme disease testing.
In April, Love the Tri announced its new campaign during a release party at Bookwalter Winery in Richland. All profits made from April to July will be donated to the Tri-Cities Cancer Center in Kennewick.
“I saw there was nothing branded Tri-Cities that was cool, fun, hip — any of those things,” Denslow said. “I wanted to create something that people would be proud to wear outside of the Tri-Cities, especially on vacation. You see airports in Seattle or Portland where people are grabbing merchandise all the time to kind of say, ‘I was here.’”
“What’s kind of morphed out of this, too, was I want people to think of the Tri-Cities as a whole rather than individual cities. If you say you are from Pasco, that’s a town of this many people. But if you say you’re from the Tri-Cities, that’s a much bigger thing — I want to promote Tri-Cities unity,” he said.
He started working on the original logo last year in spring with the help of a friend. Denslow partners with Atomic Screen Printing and Embroidery in Kennewick to bring his designs to life in the form of trucker hats, T-shirts, tanks, hoodies and even onesies.
“I went to them with an idea for a logo and a mission with all profits going to charity and what I thought I wanted it to be, and they jumped on it right away,” he said.
You can buy the merchandise online at lovethetri.com or at BlankSpace and Decades in Kennewick, Greenies, the Reach museum, and Kadlec gift shop in Richland, and Lourdes gift shop in Pasco. All resellers retain 50 percent of sales, and the rest is donated to nonprofits.
The hats — from trucker hats to beanies — retail from $19 to $26. The shirts range from $18 to $48 for a hoodie. Items ordered online must pay shipping costs.
“People still buy from the website from out of town. I have shipped things to all over the country, to almost every state,” Denslow said.
Olivia Berg, owner of BlankSpace in Kennewick, said she really likes the brand.
“It was a neat concept and fit really well with what we are trying to do at BlankSpace. We try to promote local, so it was super cohesive. It also brings traffic to our store. Whenever a new tank top design comes out, people will come out looking for it. They’ve just responded well,” she said.
Denslow soon will partner with local service businesses and restaurants wanting to print co-branded shirts with the Love the Tri logo. Richland’s Frost Me Sweet team soon will represent the Tri-Cities with its very own customized shirts, he said.
The first trucker hats came out right before the Water Follies last year.
“They sold some trucker hats and a couple of the shirts,” Denslow said. “It was a very soft launch, because I didn’t put it on social media. A few of my friends over the next couple of weeks wore the hats, went to concerts, went to different places, and they sent me those photos.”
Last August, he created the website and Facebook page.
“I basically said, ‘This is what I am doing. Let’s see what happens,’” Denslow said. “It got shared a whole bunch of times. It got a bunch of likes. Now, I’ve got over 2,800 page likes on Facebook. I post to Instagram as well.”
Last October, he organized the first Love the Tri release party at BlankSpace.
Since then he’s sold hundreds of hats and shirts, he said.
Denslow is not afraid of taking on big challenges. He opened the HomeStreet Kennewick branch in 2013 after working in the mortgage industry for more than 14 years.
He is a Tri-City native and passionate believer of giving back to his community.
“I have been involved with Water Follies for several years. I have been president three times. I guess I was ready for a new challenge as a way to give back,” he said.
When asked what he loves most about the Tri-Cities, he said, “It’s the people.”
“We have a lot of pride within the community and hopefully it expands beyond that if people can look at what I did and motivate them to figure out a way to give back then it’s self-perpetuating. That is what pushes me to keep doing what I am doing,” Denslow said.
“It’s going faster than I would have expected. The first few months you go through a series where you would get a whole bunch of orders and a whole bunch of likes, then it would slow down...then it kind of snowballed from there,” he said. “The original trucker hat I almost can’t keep in stock. More businesses have been wanting to sign up as resellers.”
Denslow said he wants to let the brand grow organically, but said he hopes to come out with new designs on a regular basis and host quarterly release parties to announce which nonprofit will benefit from the donations.
Denslow said he gets jitters before a big release.
“You design all this stuff and you just have no idea. My biggest concern is if people would like it. My friends would wear it regardless but you have no idea how other people will react to your designs,” he said. “I never considered designing my own clothing line, but it’s been fun.”
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