The lake life is a life we love. We flock to lake shores in the summer to pass our days near them and in them, and in the winter we embrace the ice with skates and ice-fishing houses. The lakes have, and always will be, a part of our Minnesota identity.
It’s this truth that prompted David Burke and Spencer Barrett to create Great Lakes Clothing Co. apparel inspired by Minnesota lake culture. Edina Magazine first introduced Burke and Barrett in early 2014 (February, “Land of Lakes”). The designers, who began with a simple T-shirt with graphics celebrating lake life, have grown the company to include many T-shirt and sweatshirt styles for lazy days on the lake or a quick nine holes in the morning. Summer accessories include sunglasses bands, hats and even koozies—all sporting their fitting logo, the beloved lake-diving loon.
The Edina community has been a continual part of the success of the Great Lakes Clothing Co. In November and December, Barrett and Burke partnered with Ridgedale Mall to set up a pop-up shop in the mall for the holiday season. “It was the first time we’ve been able to brand a space,” Barrett says. “That was pretty cool. The other really fun part was how many Edina residents stopped by,” Burke adds. “People stopped in to check out our products and genuinely wanted to see us do well.” Clearly, the branded space and devoted Edina community did do well for the brand—60 percent of the company’s 2014 sales were from the holiday season.
While the Edina community has played a huge role, other regions around the country also have helped Great Lakes Clothing Co. grow. Only half of their sales are in-state transactions. The other half is from all over the Midwest and elsewhere. Many customers are former Midwestern residents, forever Midwest die-hards. “We’ll get emails from people in Florida, thanking us because they’re so excited to have a little piece of the Midwest spirit with them,” Burke says. “We love seeing those come through.” For this reason, among others, the two are committed to having their products manufactured in the United States.
Through it all, it is the spirit of Minnesota and the Midwest that drives Barrett and Burke and ultimately drives the product. “We’re able to maintain brand authenticity because we truly connect to this lifestyle on an emotional level,” Barrett says. “The best memories of my life are from my cabin in Hayward, Wisconsin. I draw on those memories every day.” Burke nods, adding, “We want to be able to give that ‘escape to the lake’ feeling to people every day.”
Both Barrett and Burke agree on their future aspirations: They’re working towards cabins of their own. “The idea of this lake-life brand ultimately allowing me to get a cabin, so that I could give my family the same memories I had growing up, is a motivating thought,” Barrett says. “It would be so cool to see that come back full circle.”