Metro, Business

Ball and Buck Offers Curated ‘Made in America’ Retail Experience

The tagline for Newbury Street clothing store Ball and Buck indicates that this shop is not merely a place to pick up a pair of boots or a flannel. “A hunting and fishing inspired clothing brand for the sporting outdoorsman” represents a full-blown lifestyle for its patrons.

Ball and Buck, founded in 2008 by Babson alumnus Mark Bollman, seeks to create a space for its customers to find items that fit a lifestyle of curated adventure.

“[The mission at founding was] to create a sporting focused brand that combined prideful craftsmanship with quality that was the best in the world,” Bollman said.

Ball and Buck initially derived funding from friends and family, and from there the enterprise has worked hard to grow and adapt to the needs of its customer base.

The store on Newbury Street is not an ordinary clothing retailer. Toward the back of the cabin-like room is a barbershop where the customers, generally men, can come and get a service while shopping for their items.

Zach Page, the store operations manager, discusses the growing trend where high-end clothing stores bundle in another service to keep customers coming into the storefront. This could include the aforementioned barber shop, a coffee shop, or even a bar.

“We’re seeing it as a way to keep people in a brick-and-mortar in an era where brick-and-mortar is dying down consistently,” Page said.

Ball and Buck emphasizes its efforts to make sure as many of its products as possible are made in the United States, and it makes sure to regulate any outsourced material, like Italian Merino wool, that get used. Even products like its New Balance sneakers are produced  in U.S. factories despite New Balance’s tendency toward overseas manufacturing. Additionally, some of its grooming products and headphones are produced outside of the United States, but the company works to make sure that these are regulated as well.

“We focus on researching and investing in the smallest details to ensure we are making products that are going to last,” Bollman said. “Our customers have come to expect this quality from us.”

The efforts to keep the business model domestic allows the company to have oversight and control the quality of its product, and it produces results.  

“We’re offering a product that is going to be better than pretty much anywhere else on the street,” Page said. “They’re coming to us and buying a shirt that will last them years.”

To further cultivate its brand, Ball and Buck has features on its website to allow loyal followers to see real-life uses of the products. The “Journals” section is a series of articles written by Bollman and his team covering anything from recipes to the trips Bollman takes into the field to learn more about his customers and enjoy nature in the same way that so many of them do.

The Lookbooks come out biannually-once in the fall and once in the spring-and are series of pictures showing models in the field using the products. The photos are romantic and evoke a sense of rugged authenticity—a sense that you too could be on these adventures.

Despite only having one brick-and-mortar store, Ball and Buck partners with American Field and sets up pop-up shops across the country.

“We are always trying to find people who are invested in the brand and dedicated to the product,” Page said. “[We want to] bring this united vision of made-in-the-U.S. goods and long-lasting quality on the road.”

These stores have appeared in Charleston, Atlanta, San Francisco, and Washington D.C., as well as many other cities across America. D.C. is one of the companies’ biggest demographics, with their efforts there last September being their second-highest-grossing pop-up endeavor yet.

The College General program allows customers devoted to the brand to apply to become ambassadors and help spread the influence of Ball and Buck via word of mouth. This program is unique because ambassadors also help out with photo shoots and American Field events, giving them a very hands-on interaction with the company.

“They’re people who have worked with us very closely and have watched the brand take place,” Page said.

When developing products, Ball and Buck focuses on its consumer with a meticulousness and intensity not typically mirrored by larger brands.

“The early execution was really a learning experience where we listened to our early customers to determine what would be the most popular,” Bollman said.

The Hatchery is another aspect of Ball and Buck that is rather unique, allowing patrons to crowdfund various products and get them at a discount before their limited release in the store. As these products are generally those which loyal customers have been requesting, this practice allows them to have their voices heard, while benefiting from the discount as well.

“Our wallets were originally crowdfunded—now they’re one of the most popular items in the shop,” Page said. “In the end it helps us figure out what people actually want.”

While the brand caters to men, there are women who use the products, and are even featured in some of the Lookbooks. Most items in the store are unisex in practicality, so some female customers will buy them and get them tailored—a service offered by Ball and Buck. With items like boots, while the storefront might not stock their size, it is possible for women to request a smaller size from the manufacturer.

Still growing, Ball and Buck is moving forward with its mission. Bollman described the next steps for the company.

“We will be launching a membership program that enables our customers to become more connected with the brand and have access to early product launches, extra savings, and a personal stylist.”

Featured Image by Joanna Yuelys / For The Heights

March 14, 2018