At Studio Manhattan, we know there’s more to retail than just business. There are innovative ideas and individuals. There’s also a sense of community. As a company that values the above, we make it our business to do business with other companies who do the same. Among those is Landshark’s - the Michigan-based activewear outfitter by Sally Troutman and David Lokker. We sat down with David to discuss the life of Landshark’s, its original name, and why the company won’t be leaving Michigan any time soon.
1. How did Landshark’s come into this world? What was the inspiration and idea behind the store?
Sally Troutman was the mastermind behind Landshark’s. In 1995, she merged a traditional outdoor store (On Track) with the original Landshark’s, which sold mostly souvenir t-shirts and sweatshirts in the thriving resort town of Saugatuck, Michigan. Through the years, we’ve stayed true to our tagline, “outfitters for active people”, by offering the best outdoor brands like Patagonia, Oakley, Ugg, Keen, Merrell, and Smartwool. The past ten years, however, we’ve focused on bringing in fashion brands and unique items made in Michigan.
2. How did you come up with the name, “Landshark’s”?
Landshark’s is symbolic of our mission and location. While there aren’t any sharks in Lake Michigan, sharks are associated with a coastal lifestyle. People visit our town for its natural beauty and world-renowned beaches. Sharks are aggressive, so they speak to our passion for promoting an active outdoor lifestyle.
The original Landshark’s logo was drawn by Sally Troutman. We still use the old graphic on retro-inspired tees and hats. In 2009, Rick Vanderleek, an internationally famous art director and graphic designer (and friend), designed our current logo.
3. As a store, what sets Landshark’s apart from the rest?
Our store mixes fashion with core outdoor clothing brands….Most outdoor shops stick to traditional brands like The North Face, Patagonia, Mountain Hardwear, etc., while most [fashion] boutiques represent only fashion-oriented brands. We are the perfect mix of both [worlds].
Every single item in our store is something we personally love and use. We will never represent an item solely because it will retail well – we must be passionate about the brand to place it in our tiny store. We [also make it our mission to] introduce at least twelve new companies each year. This requires attending a ton of tradeshows and [engaging in] conversations with emerging brands….We were the first retailer in Michigan to carry Jeremiah clothing, Cushe footwear, Zenfari, and many other footwear, accessory, and clothing brands. Our customer has a unique experience every time they walk through our door. There is always something new to admire.
4. How do you decide which brands/products to feature in your store?
We ask the following questions:
- Does another store in our town represent the brand?
If they do, we will not bring it in. We want to protect the uniqueness of our retail community.
- Is the company socially/environmentally responsible?
We are proud of our relationships with companies like TOMS and Patagonia.
- Is this item made in the U.S.?
Unfortunately, almost all of our footwear is made in China…[but we try to] stock several brands on the clothing and accessory side that are made in the U.S., such as American Apparel and Ibex. If the product is made of sustainable, recycled, or organic materials, it has a better chance of making it into our shop. If it is made locally, it gets serious bonus points!
- Would we use/wear this product?
We absolutely will not purchase anything we would not use or wear.
- Who will purchase this item?
If we can look at a product and name five customers who would purchase it, you can bet it will be at Landshark’s.
- Is it quality?
Landshark’s is focused on well-made items. We want our customers to return and to be happy. I still have a jacket from 1993 that I wear daily. There is no substitute for quality.
5. You have been a longstanding supporter of our products. What appeals to you about Studio Manhattan’s concept, and why do you think your customers continue to purchase our merchandise?
Saugatuck is an art community. Our staff and customers appreciate design, and Studio Manhattan’s products are beautiful. Our customers come from all over the world, so the flags, landscapes, and city scenes appeal to a broad demographic. We appreciate that Studio Manhattan has worked with independent artists and photographers throughout the world. It brings uniqueness to our shop.
6. Of all the items Landshark’s has sold throughout its existence, were there any in particular that you recall as your favorites?
I love my Studio Manhattan Cuba credit card holder. Every time I pull it out, I think about the slightly less-than-legal trip my buddies and I took to Cuba. I think about the buildings, people, and [the] food.
We sell the Patagonia Retro X Jacket – the one I am wearing today is from 1993. I have had a ton of experiences in that jacket and will probably be buried in it.
Sally is obsessed with her titanium Maui Jim sunglasses. It is the one item she cannot survive without.
7. What are your plans for the future, from a business perspective? You’ve conquered Michigan – what’s next?
For the time being, we’d like to grow our web presence (www.saugatucklandsharks.com). We are putting effort into our social media campaign; you can find us on instagram @shoptheshark, twitter @shoptheshark, and we have a splendid blog: www.shoptheshark.com.
We have been bombarded by requests from customers and sales reps to open other locations in Chicago, the Detroit area, or in other lakeshore communities, but we are happy being a single-location, family-owned, independent shop. My mother (Sally) and I can always be found in the store and we love the Saugatuck community. Landshark’s has become our identity and we do not want to threaten our reputation by opening other locations. We love what we do, and we’re happy with one little 1600 square foot shop.