Food trucks might have pervaded the mainstream in the past several years, but now the idea of a store-on-wheels has started to expand beyond the food service industry.
Local menswear retailer Pursuit has taken an old potato chip delivery truck and turned it into a nearly $30,000 suit shop.
Nate DeMars, owner of Pursuit and Fisher College of Business alumnus, said a suit shop on wheels can seem a bit crazy, but he believes it’s a sound business move.
Pursuit’s only physical store, located in the South Campus Gateway, receives a “big chunk” of its business from college students, DeMars said, but that popularity with students doesn’t mean the store would be practical in any given college town.
Columbus, DeMars said, can sustain year-round business for Pursuit because of its community of young professionals. But smaller college towns are often “ghost towns” for four months in the year and it’s hard to commit to a store that’s only going to see business two-thirds of the year, he said.
The suit truck was a response to that.
“We wanted a concept to take the expertise we’re trying to build at Ohio State and take it to other campuses without having to invest in a brick-and-mortar (store) that’s not going to get (as much) business,” DeMars said.
Pursuit’s chief creative officer Shay Merritté, also a Fisher alumnus, said the truck was a great solution, and “mobile retail is one of the trends of the future.”
DeMars and Merritté said they considered opening pop-up stores that would visit different campuses for a few weeks or a month at a time before moving on, but something about a truck has always appealed to them.
“We’ve had the idea of the truck since basically the beginning of the store and the business,” DeMars said.
Pursuit was founded in 2011 and DeMars, Merritté and the rest of the Pursuit team have been working on making the truck a reality since August 2013.
“I scoured the Internet and Craigslist for a long, long time (for the right truck),” DeMars said.
He finally found it — the “biggest step van (he) could find” — but there was some major remodeling to be done.
The truck needed heat, air conditioning, lighting, storage, generators, dressing rooms and a vibrant paint job. DeMars said the truck cost around $7,500, but all the rest ran an additional $22,000.
Almost seven months later, though, DeMars and Merritté said they are happy with the result. The “giant, weird, colorful truck” streamlines the suit-buying process in a way the Gateway store hasn’t managed to, Merritté said.
The truck doesn’t and physically can’t offer as many options as Pursuit’s rented location at 1572 N. High St., but Merritté said creating a streamlined layout was simpler in the truck.
“For just one guy coming in, the truck is a lot easier and makes more sense. Everything (in the truck) has its own place, and there’s not as much to communicate,” Merritté said. Merritté and DeMars said they have more liberty to set up Pursuit’s products in the truck to their liking, as opposed to its rented location at the Gateway.
Testing of the truck began Friday with a launch party in the Gateway, Merritté said.
A crowd of about 75 people gathered to celebrate the truck’s launch, DeMars said, and the first suit was sold from the truck that night.
The truck also made appearances outside the Lifestyle Communities Pavilion on Neil Avenue and in Columbus’ Brewery District over the weekend. It has not yet traveled to other cities or college campuses.
The truck got “a lot of puzzled looks,” but it also prompted at least one phone call about setting up an event with Pursuit, DeMars said.
Becca Anderson, a third-year in English, said she thought the truck “shows ingenuity.”
“Accessibility is super important,” she said. “With food trucks and clothes trucks, stores are not limited to one spot. They can deliver to their customers, offering a one-up on competitors,” Anderson said.