I recently had the privilege to sit down over coffee and have a conversation with Josh Quinn, the owner of Tigertree. Below is our conversation that took place about inspiration, creativity, fashion, and Columbus.
So I’ve always been curious, why the name Tigertree?
It’s from an old kid’s book. My wife and I had a brand before we started Tigertree, it started out being made up of Children’s Books. It was the first book we made a wallet out of. It’s kind of how we got into this business. We made belts, bags, and other accessories. We were a wholesale brand based out of LA. We were our own sales reps so we traveled around and sold to other stores. I think, you know…. on one hand we were discovering products we had never seen and never been exposed to. But on the other hand, what we both really both fell in love with was the idea of store environment design. So that’s always been really integral to our brand, creating a great store experience. A lot of that was gleaned from travels and selling our products.
Is there is any significance between your logo and the children’s book?
The logo was designed by an artist named John Klassen, who’s a friend of ours out in LA. He did a couple of books that have been big lately. I Want My Hat Back and This is Not My Hat, he illustrated the most recent Lemony Snicket book and was an art director on Coraline.
What is the back story of Tigertree? I know you’ve talked about it some already, but I want to hear the origin of it.
Yeah, so we owned an accessory brand, we were in Fred Segal, Bergdorf Goodman, Henri Bendel, and a lot of shops like ours. We traveled around the country selling our accessories, doing the trade circuit and that sort of thing. We decided we wanted to build a great retail brand as well so we moved to Columbus to do that. Our original shop location was supposed to be an experiment / hybrid workspace and a retail floor. So we originally on Brickel Street where Homage used to be over by Tasi. We were the first tenant in that building after its renovation. About 30% of the store was dedicated to a workspace, we had a couple of sewing machines, cast-belt buckles, that sort of thing all on the floor and the rest was a retail space. We actually get some things produced now, but even up to that point, we never really understood production at all. But that always kept the brand from growing the way it should have. We had good designs and a good client base but we never really knew how to outsource production. It was always the 2 of us and a hand full of friends helping out. We were never able to scale like we needed to and at one point we just got exhausted with keeping up with production of a small brand and we ceased doing it.
Very cool. So you’re from the west coast. Why’d you move to Columbus?
Niki’s family lives about two hours north of here. She went to OSU, initially we were just supposed to be here for 6 months. We wanted to do an east coast store, we weren’t totally set on NY, we were looking at NY, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Charleston. We were gonna be here for 6 months and take satellite trips as we worked out our business plan and we felt that the Short North was such a great place. We kept looking at other cities and nothing really compared to this neighborhood.
What about neighborhood sold you?
I mean, comparatively, it just seemed cool. And it seemed like Columbus was a city where we could make an impact that we couldn’t have in other cities. You know, I feel like we always want to add something if we can, and other cities it felt like we just be scraping a little bit off the top if we could. There’s no way we could have moved to NY and do anything to change the landscape of whatever neighborhood we would’ve been in. But here, it felt like we could really come in and make a difference and help the neighborhood grow and be something more significant. But also from strictly a business point of view, at that point, this neighborhood was really cheap. And I think it’s still really cheap for what you get. Rents are going up, but I still think comparing your foot count and the caliber of your customers that are coming in, for what you pay, it’s a hell of bargain. But at that point, it was a crazy bargain, when we were looking at NY or Philadelphia, side street in a B or C neighborhood was 15 grand month. Where as here it was a couple grand a month. It was just a no brainer.
I’ve noticed Tigertree is always evolving. What are some of the ways you stay inspired.
You know, until now we’ve been really lucky it been’s totally naturally. I feel like when we opened we were real juvenile, it was just stuff that we like. We’ve been lucky that we’ve allowed what we like and what we sell to be the same thing. it’s evolved with us. And so, I think it always feels very authentic. the men’s side a very much a reflection of my style. The women’s side is very much a reflections of Niki’s style. The gift’s are between the two of us and since and we just had a child we’ve added a kid’s section and that’s started to grow. As we’ve been searching for stuff for Emma, and we find stuff we can’t find in Columbus… And if we like it we feel like there’s a market in Columbus. That’s always been our angle so the evolution of Tigertree, that it has been our own personal evolution
Is there anybody in your industry you look up to?
Oh, yeah. We have good friends who own a shop in Chicago called Penelope’s. They opened their shop two years before us, had kids two years before us. They used to buy our brand so that’s how we met them. There are so many similarities to them and always like to follow their advice. Store wise, we think they’re the closest comparison to us.
What do you think are some of more creative brands?
I love Ace and Jig, it’s a women’s brand. We think it’s one of the coolest brands in the shop right now. They do traditional loom fabrics from India. Nothing else really looks like it. It’s not an inexpensive brand, but it’s completely hand crafted, the patterns and colors from the traditional Indian looms are just beautiful. It’s a brand that other brands are trying to knock off. But can’t, because if you’re not willing to do it the right way, the product won’t come out the same. I think it’s really cool when you have something that’s so labor intensive, it has to cost that much because so much labor goes into the fabric. I think they’re really great. We started carrying Filson recently and I just love Filson. It’s an incredibly timeliness brand. They manage to stay creative and relevant without compromising their heritage at the same time, which I think is a tough line to walk.
Yeah, I love Filson too. I’ve always loved their tagline, “Might as well have the best” is so fitting.
When you think about a messenger bag that you’re going to sling over your shoulder all the time, guys that won’t spend 300 bucks are probably breaking a $100 nylon one every 6 months. The Filson carrier brief will literally last your whole life. I like that we’re at a point where I feel like we’re going back to things that age intentionally, you know? I love natural leather (pulls out wallet) I’ve had this wallet for probably 4-5 months now. it started out light and now it’s totally different. I’ve had a brown natural leather belt that’s almost 5 years old and it’s almost black now. Natural leather and raw denim, and Filson wax canvas, it’s a badge of honor the older it looks. I think it’s real antithesis to the fast fashion throw away bullshit that we’ve seen as trend for so long. It’s nice for menswear too. I don’t think fast fashion hit’s menswear as hard because the trends don’t shift to such an extreme. You look at something like the high low-cut that hit women’s fashion for 6 months or a year, but menswear tends to look silly if it’s not close to traditional. When you start playing around too much with the hem or the collar, or the buttons or the spacing. it doesn’t look right. Whether that looks good or not, who knows, that’s a whole different discussion.
When I said creative who are the first three people who come to your mind?
Walt Disney. Like I said, we think about our jobs more as environment design than store design. It’s not just figuring out how to get people to move efficiently through a space and spend money, but to really figure out how they associate with that space. Disney is still the reigning king of designing experiential spaces.
Elon Musk. As dire as things sometimes seem, I always think leaders can figure out how to find opportunity in the chaos and eventually make the world a better place for it. I believe that people like Musk will be instrumental in solving our world’s energy and climate crises.
My Wife. I couldn’t be in business with a better partner. She is a master at looking at spaces and figuring them out.
If you’re ever in the Short North, be sure to check out Tigertree or learn more at shoptigertree.com.