It wasn’t unusual for Derrick Humphrey to drive to Dayton to shop for jeans and shoes with just the right edge to fit his urban style.
But many trips to area shopping malls for particular Air Jordan sneakers left him empty handed, even though he saw the shoes being sold in larger cities when he checked social media. The lack of local access motivated him to bring those goods to his hometown, propelling the launch of online streetwear company HRD Apparel in April.
“If you look at Springfield, it’s kind of an apparel desert, like a clothing desert,” says Humphrey, a 2005 graduate of Kenton Ridge High School. “I just found a niche and a demand, and I thought, ‘Hey, I’m going to double down on this.’”
He teamed up with his cousin, 2006 South High grad Kaylen McIntosh, and Springboro resident Justin Rankin to establish HRD Apparel. The three men plan to grow the company online and have aspirations to eventually open a physical location in Springfield.
Humphrey says with a brick and mortar location, they'd be able to contribute to driving more consumer traffic to downtown Springfield.
"Towns like Xenia, Urbana, Yellow Springs are all in the same boat. They, too, don't have the access," he says, adding that a physical location could have a positive economic impact by enticing people from outside of Clark County to spend their money in the city.
Humphrey, 33, says they aim to make “better, hotter, sexier” streetwear styles more accessible to the under-40 crowd in the Miami Valley. HRD Apparel’s focus is on selling urban fashions that can’t be found in stores at the Upper Valley Mall or The Mall at Fairfield Commons.
“They usually get the most basic of product. But there are different versions of Nike. There are different versions of Adidas that won’t circulate to the Fairfield Mall. They may circulate in New York, California, Miami, bigger major metros,” Humphrey says.
He adds that it feels good to build his new business in the same town where he grew up. He enjoys providing friends and neighbors with apparel that they used to have to travel at least an hour to find.
"Everybody enjoys feeling and looking cool," Humphrey says. "So to be able to provide that to my hometown, where we've never had this, is awesome."
Besides Air Jordan, HRD offers a variety of other brands ranging in price from $45 to $300 including Yeezy, Nike, Adidas and Vans. The site T-shirts from the Springfield-based L.I.E. Loyalty Is Everything product line, as well as NoHOURS, DroLife and The Bleeding Heart Market. Other offerings include jeans, ballcaps, underwear and face masks.
Certain shoes can be difficult for consumers to find because manufacturers only make a limited quantity, Humphrey says. The scarcity of the product boosts resale value.
“We are trying to capture that resale avenue with some of these exclusive shoes that come out once every five or seven years,” he says.
Humphrey is planning a distribution system that can get merchandise in local customers' hands the same day or the next day after they place an order.
“I want to be the streetwear Macy’s. I want people that, if you think of streetwear and you think of cool clothing, I want them to come see me. I don’t want them to go to the mall,” Humphrey says. “Because we’re always going to make sure that we have the best stuff.”
Since the launch, they have been able to buy more shoes that have stoked a lot of interest, Humphrey says. One kind was the Air Jordan Royal Toe, an athletic shoe with a blue toe that has created buzz online.
“I ended up getting like three pairs,” he says. “Everybody was just going stir crazy for it.”
HRD Apparel is the second digital company for Humphrey and Rankin. Their first, Hard Media Group, launched two years ago. It helps businesses create content and advertisements on social media.
They devised the plan for Hard Media while working at Japanese manufacturing company Fukuvi USA in Huber Heights. Humphrey worked in human resources and Rankin was in marketing.
Rankin built Hard Media’s website and crafted a brand image that juxtaposed the company’s “hard” name with a “soft” panda logo. The name was meant to show they would take an edgier, more aggressive approach than other digital marketing companies. Now HRD Apparel is spinning off Hard Media using the same brand image.
The two companies are among several new Springfield businesses that have launched in recent years with a strong digital presence, says Horton Hobbs, vice president of economic development for the Chamber of Greater Springfield. He pointed to the success of COhatch, a market space that opened in downtown Springfield to provide an environment where this type of entrepreneur can get started.
“There have been a number of new small start-ups that have spun up in the last few years, whether that’s restaurant or small professional services, or even niche retail,” Hobbs says.
Businesses with the capability to operate online are going to be in a stronger position now, he adds.
“I think you’re going to see more and more of a push to online where possible given the pandemic and its effect,” Hobbs says.
Hard Media has seen an uptick in work since the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Humphrey says. That reassured him that HRD Apparel could thrive online despite the coronavirus.
“Nothing was going to stop us from starting. To me, I felt if we didn’t start, it would’ve been over. We would have had no company,” he says. “I think we were all relentless in making this happen.”