A column by Flintside writer Patrick Hayes.
Over the summer, my kids and I were doing what we do on a lot of beautiful days: wandering around downtown Flint, exploring, and taking pictures.
It was late afternoon, warm, and slightly overcast … the greyish sky provided pretty photo lighting. Plus, all three of us had just got new shoes, so we were feelin’ ourselves a little bit. We posed for a picture of our new Tom’s with the beautiful city as the backdrop, and the result was appropriately contrived and thirsty enough to be Instagram-worthy. And, as any total normal person does, I tagged the Tom’s account in the caption. They responded, asking if they could potentially use the photo on their page. They haven’t used the photo yet, but that’s OK … because now I have a better counter-proposal.
I’ve periodically thought about that photo on and off since then. Beyond just wondering how sad and lonely I am to be interacting with brands on social media. But bigger picture than that, I’ve thought about Tom’s in the context of downtown Flint.
A quick perusal of the Flintside archives offers a glimpse into what has become a burgeoning network of creative fashion and retail entrepreneurs. These businesses and creators complement a diverse arts and culture scene that includes the beautifully renovated Capitol Theatre, the new Buckham Gallery
, monthly art walks, dozens of festivals, a growing number of bars, restaurants, and eateries, a world-class farmer’s market, and much more.
The momentum isn’t just noticeable to Flint area residents who frequent downtown. In August, Crain’s Detroit Business wrote
about a laundry list of landscape-changing investments that have occured downtown in a short period of time.
Factor in that the University of Michigan-Flint, Kettering University, Mott Community College, and Michigan State University’s College of Human Medicine bring in approximately 10,000 college students into the heart of the city on a daily basis, and it is easy to envision that energy continuing to increase as more businesses aimed at catering to that crowd realize the potential offered in Flint.
Which brings me back to Tom’s. It is inspiring seeing fashion brands like Bedrock and Good Boy Clothing launch and thrive in Flint. Imagine if they were complemented by an international brand like Tom’s, inspired by the creative environment downtown, choosing to open a store in Flint?
Tom’s is known for being a socially conscious company, providing footwear and glasses to people in need in more than 70 countries. They advocate for and support causes including clean water, safe birthing conditions, gun violence prevention, and more.
Although their products are sold by several retailers, there are only a handful of official Tom’s stores in the country — the closest one to Michigan is in Chicago.
Adding Tom’s to the downtown landscape would clearly be a victory for Flint and the continued efforts to bring new investment into the city. It would also provide positive attention for Tom’s — they could truly send a message that Flint and our people are worthy of investment, while also tapping into a market that includes close proximity to college students and faculty within the city as well as easy driving distance to customer bases in Ann Arbor, Lansing, Detroit, and other Michigan markets that would travel the relatively short distance to visit Michigan’s only Tom’s store.
Anyone who lives in or spends time in Flint knows that it is a city with a lot to offer. In short, it’s home. Even to people who leave and make homes elsewhere, few places feel quite like Flint. Tom’s choosing to pay attention to what we all see here could make a greater impact and more powerful statement by simply being in Flint than they could in any other city in the country.