It's been one big year for Black & Denim Apparel Company.
In 11 short months, the boutique clothier has grown from Kickstarter-funded
roots into the official sponsor of all branded merchandise and apparel for the 2014 Publix Gasparilla Distance Classic.
For the past three years, footwear and apparel giant Nike has been the official race sponsor, "so we have big shoes to fill,'' says Black & Denim founder Roberto Torres. "This gives us an audience of over 30,000 people. This project is huge!''
After a local runner and Black & Denim fan suggested the company approach the Gasparilla Distance Classic Association with designs, Torres explains, "It just took off from there.''
Black & Denim is set to provide long- and short-sleeve T-shirts for competitors in the annual race
, held Feb. 22-23 in downtown Tampa. The company hopes to expand apparel and merchandise to include hats, thermals, "hoods'' (hooded sweatshirts), and more in 2015.
Fans will be able to pre-purchase branded merchandise on the Black & Denim
website the week prior to the race as well as on race weekend. In the company's first year as a race sponsor, they will offer "six kick-ass designs that are edgy and fun -- family-friendly, as well,'' says Torres.
Since opening a boutique storefront
in October 2013, the company has rapidly outgrown the space, moving to 1907 East 7th Ave. in Ybor City. Torres also has short-term plans to open a store in Channelside and a long-term goal to bring a store to Tampa International Airport by 2018. The company employs five people in Tampa and will hire two more for the Channelside location.
Every semester, notes Torres, "we have four interns from either the University of Tampa, University of South Florida, or the International Academy of Design and Technology.''
Black & Denim will showcase wares in a booth at the 8 On Your Side Health and Fitness Expo at the Tampa Convention Center during race weekend. The 2014 Expo
will feature 99,000 square feet of vendors, says Torres.
"We are very excited about the opportunity, to say the least,'' says Torres. "This race attracts runners from all over the country.''
By: Justine Benstead
Source: Roberto Torres, Black & Denim