I’ve been an open book with Pursuit since the night in January 2011 I first pitched a half-baked version of the concept to class full of business students at Ohio State. From that time I’ve tried to share the highs and lows of the journey for those of you who are here for more than just suits.
In that spirit, I share the news that last weekend we closed our Cincinnati shop.
The short version of the story is that our lease is ending and I’ve decided that continuing to spread our energy across two cities is no longer the best way to run our small company. It was one of the tougher calls I’ve had to make as it really marks a change in our vision for Pursuit and my view of myself as an entrepreneur—but I’m confident it’s the right decision and will accelerate the amazing momentum we have in our hometown. Of course, I’m not known for brevity so…
I fell in love with OTR, the architecture, the history, and the entrepreneurial energy years before I even started Pursuit. So when I decided it was time to expand, I wanted us to be a part of what was happening in OTR. We opened a gorgeous store in OTR on Halloween of 2018 and it’s been a fun, rewarding, and challenging journey from the jump.
Early on it became clear that opening in a new city was a whole lot closer to completely starting over than simply transferring our Short North success to the closest neighboring big city. The first year was beyond humbling as we had to build an audience and revamp our approach to meet the reality.
But one of the early decisions we got right was hiring a fantastic young woman—Anna Jackson—to run the shop. While I own the company, from the beginning Pursuit OTR was Anna’s store. And she rolled with all the surprises, changes, tough lessons, and exciting opportunities with a passion and determination you can only wish for as a small business owner hiring a leader 100 miles away. She managed the shop from the day it opened to the day it closed. I'm so proud of the work she did for these five years.
From the beginning in Cincinnati we also had some incredible opportunities and some very special moments. We hosted amazing artists like Bon Iver and Trampled by Turtles. We played a major role in a Netflix series Say, I Do (from the creators of Queer Eye) that was filmed partially in the shop and using our suits. We brought our gold medal curling connections to the city before the Olympics. And we partnered with the biggest brand in the city, The Bengals, to launch their new Ring of Honor during what became perhaps the best two seasons in team history. Some of my favorite Pursuit memories happened in OTR.
Along the way these projects and word-of-mouth helped us find our people. We built a small but strong legion of passionate supporters who trusted us with their weddings and made us their local brand. We are so appreciative of the people who supported us—a special thank you to the community of OTR small businesses, wedding vendors, and the LGBT+ community who embraced us from the beginning.
We hope to continue to serve this loyal group of customers from afar (we keep all those measurements, you know!). And I’m blown away by how many weddings and customers have already decided they’ll make the quick 100 mile commute to shop with us in the Short North. We plan to pop-up in Cincinnati from time to time as well, I’m way too hooked on the Skyline lifestyle to stay away from the city—4-way with beans, dry if you're curious.
The truth is we could have continued to build and grow in Cincinnati—my heart certainly wanted to do that but we found ourselves stuck in the middle, successful enough to keep going but not successful enough to operate like we do in Columbus.
The OTR store was both profitable and fast growing (34% in 2022) but the Short North remains way bigger, way more profitable, and is growing significantly faster. I had always presumed that over time the two stores would become more and more similar but what we found was that running a tiny company with two stores that were very different and had very different needs was not a very efficient way to run a business. And continuing to invest in building in Cincinnati was coming at the expense of higher potential opportunities to build upon our magic in Columbus.
Five years ago I thought Cincinnati would be the first of several Pursuit stores outside our hometown. While we had success in Cincinnati, it was never enough to make me want to open in a third city. And as we weathered the pandemic with a tiny team, I found myself way more hands on in the Short North, falling in love again with the day-to-day interactions with customers, feeling amazingly plugged into our home city and the people who are building it into something special. I rethought what I wanted my role at Pursuit to look like and what I want my life outside of work to look like. And the concept evolved to include more premium and fashionable products, a much broader customer base, and a tighter operating model. We’re fortunate to have such a strong base we’ve built slowly over twelve years of Pursuit (and my seventeen years living here) and it became clear we have only scratched the surface in Columbus—and that belief is why I decided to close in Cincinnati.
I’m sad to walk away from the dream that OTR represented and I’m most sad to lose Anna as a colleague (she quickly found a new role to remain in Cincinnati). But I’m also very grateful. Grateful for the team of people who has surrounded me over the years and helped us bring the OTR vision to life—especially former Ops Manager Ryan Kovalaske who temporarily relocated to OTR to help us open the shop. Grateful for the thousands of customers in Cincinnati who put their trust in us with some of their biggest moments in life. Grateful to our very unique landlord, 3CDC, who helped us all weather the pandemic. And grateful to be in a position after twelve years to make difficult decisions like this one—often these things come without any real choice.
I’m very excited about what the future holds for Pursuit. I'm very excited about the small team with some new faces we've assembled in Columbus. I’m very excited for the role I’m carving out for myself within this not-so-new local business. And I’m very excited to see what doors open up as we close this one.
Thank you for following along and supporting us over all these years.