Move to Lowell key in Addix’s expansion
Athletic apparel manufacturer provides local high schools, colleges with custom uniforms.
First it was a basement, then a storefront in Mount Pleasant and, after that, for about two-and-a-half years, a 3,000-square-foot barn on 80 acres of family property.
But in 2013, Ryan Henderson and Kale Showalter, co-founders of athletic apparel manufacturer Addix, made a decision. They moved Addix out of the barn on the outskirts of Mount Pleasant and into the shell of the former TJ’s Sports Bar & Grille, 14043 E. Fulton St. in Lowell.
After six years in business, Henderson said it was the right time to move closer to the strong connections they’d forged at organizations like the National United Wrestling Association for Youth, which was founded in Lowell.
“We built our business by going to a lot of their events, shaking a lot of hands, building word of mouth and just developing those relationships,” Henderson said. “And at that point, we were smart enough to realize that if we surround ourselves with the right people, this thing can move forward quickly.”
At the time, Addix had six employees on staff and plans to turn half of the space into a wrestling room, with the other half dedicated to manufacturing. But those plans didn’t last long.
The company’s rapid growth over the first few months in its new home pushed the wrestling room out to make more room for equipment and staff. Today, the company staffs 58 employees and recently secured a deal as the official custom uniform and wrestling gear supplier for the Michigan High School Athletic Association.
“It’s been quite the journey,” Henderson said.
That journey began in 2005, when Showalter and Henderson met while attending Central Michigan University. Both men had been high school wrestlers and bonded over the shared interest. About one year into their friendship, they hit on the idea to start a business together, screen printing apparel for local wrestling teams.
The pair bought some equipment and got to work out of Showalter’s parents’ basement. Eventually, they rented a storefront on Mission Street in Mount Pleasant where they also catered to local fraternities and sororities but focused on continuing to build a strong base in the wrestling community.
Throughout this time, Addix was operating under a dealership model, buying gear from established suppliers like Adidas and Asics and providing customized screen printing. But as more and more products started to come in from overseas, that model began to deteriorate. So, Henderson and Showalter decided it was time to learn how to make their own gear.
Working out of an old barn owned by Showalter’s family, they bought sublimation equipment, a large heat press, some digital printers and contracted someone to do their sewing. With the entire manufacturing operation in place, Addix could control the entire supply chain and found additional value in faster turnaround times and complete customization.
“The pinnacle of sublimation is that you can create anything you possibly want on a shirt, wrestling singlet or football uniform,” Henderson said. “So, we hired some very talented artists and had them operate right out of our facility. So from beginning to end, from the time a customer contacted us, we could take an idea and run with it.”
Now operating in Lowell, Henderson said Addix can manufacture, tag and ship gear right from its home facility. He said that type of service typically is offered only for pro or college teams like the University of Oregon, which is recognized for its innovative and seemingly endless vault of uniform combinations.
“We wanted to bring that process to smaller colleges, high schools and youth clubs,” he said.
By bringing the whole operation in-house, turnaround is about three weeks from the time an order is received until it’s in hand. This is especially beneficial for teams who may have lost a jersey, or have an upcoming event that requires a special uniform order.
“We’re more agile (than our competitors),” Henderson said. “I like to think of them as a huge ship, and we’re a bunch of speedboats who can move around a little faster.”
Addix maintains a strong base in the state of Michigan, especially in wrestling, but has customers in California, New York, Pennsylvania, Indiana and Ohio, as well as other various locations scattered around the country. In addition to wrestling, Addix manufacturers uniforms for football, basketball, track, soccer, baseball and track teams, to name a few.
Of the nearly 750 schools in the MHSAA, Henderson estimates Addix has provided uniforms for nearly 500 of them and currently maintains about 400 to 500 accounts nationwide. Addix also provides practice and workout gear for a number of major university programs, including Michigan State University, Stanford University and Cornell University. Henderson added Addix has worked with many colleges in the state, including Olivet and Hope Colleges.
Having recently celebrated its 10th anniversary in operation, Henderson said Addix isn’t focused on chasing numbers in its strategic goals for the future, but rather in improving supply chain, adding equipment and shortening the turnaround.
“Every step that we take, we want to be driving value for the sports community,” he said. “We’re focusing on doing the right things every day, week to week and month to month.”