Social Enterprise Clothe Ohio Moves Mission Offline

Dustin and Elliott Fisher want to clothe Ohio. It’s part of their business mission. As co-owners of Clothe Ohio, an online retailer recently gone brick and mortar, the two brothers sell Ohio-themed apparel and donate a t-shirt or sweatshirt to a local charitable organization for every order they receive.

Their first donation, after the start of their business in March of 2015, went to the Homeless Families Foundation. The non-profit, located Downtown, provides housing assistance and educational services for Columbus’ homeless. But the Fishers didn’t just consider the homeless when making donations; to date they’ve donated more than 11,000 items to 14 local and statewide charities, including a shelter for survivors of domestic violence, a neighborhood elementary school and, most recently, a mentorship organization for people with breast cancer.

“It kind of gives them a hope, like someone does care, and there’s people out there, and they’re not just getting the leftovers or what people are done using,” said Dustin Fisher, Short North resident and Cincinnati native.

Donations don’t happen on a specific day every month. Rather, the Fishers work with each selected charity to figure out how much of which items are needed. It might be 500 or 1,000, newborn baby onesies or 5XL. Items come in sizes for men, women and children. People from any area in the state can get them; they come in designs custom made for those who hail from Cleveland, Columbus and Cincinnati, and some limited designs exist for Toledo, Dayton, and Akron/Canton residents.

Once they know how many are needed, Clothe Ohio sells its apparel and accessories to its aware (or just spirited) customers, sets aside an item to donate, and makes the donation once they’ve met their quota. Until this past Friday, they’ve maintained an online presence only, limiting their reach to consumers who’ve heard of their business through social media.

After opening their first offline store in the Short North on Black Friday, Dustin Fisher said they look forward to expanding their clientele to the majority of consumers who still shop in-store. Plus, his customers will be happy to finally know how the clothes fit and feel before committing to their purchases.

“Just being here in Columbus, having OSU, having the Short North and the surrounding area, knowing how vibrant all that is — that’s what really solidified it for us to start looking and say, ‘We’re going to take what we do online and actually create a physical location,’” Dustin Fisher said. “So people can really feel what we’re trying to get across and feel the movement instead of just possibly hearing about us from a friend.”

Along with this physical location, the two brothers have considered charity in other forms, such as suggesting a $1 donation to Clothe Ohio patrons at check out. But although Dustin Fisher isn’t opposed to monetary contributions, his focus is on apparel, a business he’s been in for a decade.

“You write a check. You donate money. You’re not exactly sure all the time how that’s being spent, or where that’s going to, or who it’s affecting,” he said. “When we give 500 garments to the Homeless Families Foundation, they hand those out to those people right there, right then. So you know it really makes that instant impact.”

The Fishers aren’t putting a limit on their presence, online or in the store. Should Clothe Ohio thrive in the Short North, Dustin Fisher said they’d consider opening more locations in Dublin, Cleveland, and Cincinnati.

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