Hammer Made for a recovery

May 19, 2017 | GET MORE : Entrepreneurship

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Minnesota men’s clothing boutique expands to Chicago, Atlanta and Boston.

Talk about defying the odds.

A middle class Gen Xer from Duluth opens a single retail store at a high-end Twin Cities mall in 2009, just as the recession is crashing around him. 

Jason Hammerberg not only opened and succeeded with the boutique men’s clothing store – but he re-invested everything in the company to create a successful new brand with online channel, three stores in Minnesota, three in Chicago and three new stores opening on the East Coast this spring. 

Hammerberg’s store, Hammer Made, is succeeding despite the well-documented challenges facing many large national retailers. 

Longtime U.S. Bank customer Hammer Made is growing quickly. Including new stores that opened in April in Boston and Atlanta and a second on the way in Atlanta, the 30-employee enterprise is expecting just under $10 million in sales in 2017, more than double what it was a few years ago.

The company’s growth closely mirrors what other small businesses are feeling about the economy, according to U.S. Bank’s annual Small Business Survey. Economic sentiment is at an all-time high for the eight-year-old survey, with 80 percent of owners describing their own business as strong.   

Hammerberg, who travels to the fabric mills and manufacturers, cut his teeth in the men’s clothing industry selling clothing at Dayton’s (a department store based in Minnesota that was eventually acquired by Macy’s.) When he was ready to expand the boutique from its original store into other malls and other metro areas, Hammerberg turned to U.S. Bank for financing and guidance.

Demonstrating trust and having a close relationship are top priorities for U.S. Bank when beginning new endeavors with new small business customers. Hammerberg has felt those things with the bank from the beginning.

"With the resources that U.S. Bank has, I’ve gotten a crazy amount of good attention, help, strategy, business planning, advice, kudos, and warnings," he said. 

Hammerberg described the relationship he’s developed with his banker, Matt Clark, vice president and client manager at U.S. Bank, whom he described as "literally, a day-to-day resource" on everything from credit card access, loan and line of credit questions and cash management.

"Matt and his sons, who are 5 and 7, came over to our headquarters while the boys were on spring break. They played Legos in the next room, while we had a meeting."

That kind of personal commitment from Clark is an example of the type of over-and-above trusted service that he’s received from U.S. Bank, "not just by one person, but by many people."

Hammerberg fondly recalled a serendipitous encounter in one of his stores with a customer, who turned out to be former U.S. Bank CEO Richard Davis, who wore a Hammer Made tie at the White House and on national television. 

Over the years, Hammerberg has also enlisted U.S. Bank’s Business Owner Advisory Services as he weighed the best places and method to finance the three new retail stores. He’s working on a deal to use a combination of outside fundraising and SBA-backed debt for the expansion. He’s also received services from wealth management, international wire transfers and other departments.

Hammer Made is a great example of a company that’s thrived despite the current pressure in the retail market, said Clark. “They’ve proven that a smaller footprint is almost bullet proof in the current war against retail,” Clark said. 

“They have cool, unique clothes at a great price and yet still maintain very healthy margins and don’t engage in a cost cutting race to the bottom,” he said. ”I’m astounded with their growth.”

Sam Black is a member of U.S. Bank’s corporate communications team.