At a time when many other retailers have been shuttering stores, Jason Hammerberg has been doing just the opposite.
The Twin Cities businessman behind Hammer Made launched his first men's store at the Galleria in Edina in 2009. He has since expanded to nine — soon to be 10 — stores.
Last year, he opened three stores in the Chicago area. This year, he has added one in Boston and another in Atlanta, where a second store is set to open in the coming weeks.
"Retail has been stale in the U.S. for a long time," Hammerberg said. "There's so much of the same out there right now. People give us a chance because a) there's not a lot of men's out there and b) there's a lot of repeats out there that are in every mall."
Plus, much of the new retail options aren't high in quality or too expensive, he said.
"We see a void in the market," he said. "You see a lot of men's clothing that sticks to light blue — it's very boring, very basic."
With prices that start around $100, Hammer Made's shirts come in bright colors and playful patterns. They are designed to be more tailored so they can be worn untucked or tucked. Hammerberg sources his products from mills in Italy and Portugal and has them manufactured in Turkey.
He expects sales will nearly double this year to just under $10 million.
A Duluth native, he started his career working at Dayton's. He started Hammer Made out of his basement. Then he moved to an office in the basement of the Galleria. Last year, he moved his team of 10 employees to bigger offices in Eden Prairie.
Hammer Made also has become a common sight at Twin Cities sporting events since it has marketing arrangements with the Twins, Vikings and the Wild. When Twins players first come up to bat, they appear on the big screen briefly wearing a Hammer Made shirt.
His company's growth and expansion comes at a time when many department stores such as Nordstrom and Macy's have been struggling and a number of teen-oriented apparel retailers have filed for bankruptcy. Traffic to shopping malls also has been dwindling as more consumers shop online or choose to spend their money on experiences rather than apparel.
But Hammerberg is undeterred. With higher-priced products, he's been focused on placing his stores in higher-end malls, which landlords are keeping well maintained and updated to stay relevant.
"We're trying to stay focused on the right malls with the right cotenancy — the Nordstroms of the world," he said. "Those A-plus malls that have Tiffany's and Tesla, they're trying to reinvest in the mall to make it a destination with the right food and the right entertainment."
One of his Chicago stores opened last summer in a high-end mall along Michigan Avenue that is anchored by a Nordstrom. The Atlanta-area store that opened in April is in a newer mixed-use development with offices, restaurants and retailers that include Apple and Whole Foods.
"It's sort of the mall of the future," he said.
And his new Boston store is located in the bustling Prudential Center, which mixes offices with retail and restaurants such as Eataly.
After the current growth spurt, Hammerberg plans to slow the expansion to focus on increasing brand awareness in these new markets and on Hammer Made's website, which accounts for about 10 percent of his sales.
"That's the next big task," he said. "There's plenty of real estate out there, so there's lots of opportunities. But now it's about building the brand."
In addition to the Galleria, his other Twin Cities locations are at the Mall of America, Ridgedale Center and the airport.