Custom apparel maker MyLocker expands Detroit operations

Candice Williams
The Detroit News

Detroit – When MyLocker, a manufacturer of custom apparel, moved to Detroit from Warren six years ago, the company made its home in three buildings in Corktown.

To keep up with a growing demand for its personalized products, the company recently completed a $14 million expansion at 1300 Rosa Parks. The project adds 120,000 square feet onto its production facility, growing the space to 210,000 square feet.

The expansion will increase the company’s workforce from 450 to 1,200 employees by 2022.

“We have a lot of extra space,” said Robert Hake, CEO of MyLocker following a ribbon-cutting on Monday. “We’ve got the infrastructure in place so we can just keep growing now.”

Embroidery department team leader Cinthia Perez threads a needle on an embroidery machine at MyLocker in Detroit. The customized and personalized print on-demand company is expanding with a new 120,000-square-foot addition.

Hake and officials celebrated the expansion with a tour of the facility. Employees were busy preparing customized items including T-shirts, hats and blankets Monday before gathering in the new space to commemorate the event. The three-story structure includes a high bay area with a state-of-the-art robotic merchandise picking system. 

The project is funded through a blend of public and private dollars and incentives: $2.1 million from the state’s Michigan Business Growth Fund Loan Participation Program and a $2.5 million Michigan Business Development Program grant. Pending approval from the Detroit City Council is a 12-year, $2.4 million real property tax abatement.

The project is also funded through Invest Detroit allocating $7 million in New Markets Tax Credits, which results in below-market financing rates. JPMorgan Chase helped support the business through the Chase Invest Detroit Fund.

From left, Detroit mayor Mike Duggan shakes hands Monday with MyLocker founder and CEO Robert Hake, pictured with the  Detroit Economic Growth Corporation's David White and Invest Detroit's Marcia Ventura.

"This wouldn't have happened without them," Hake said of the financial support. "The business is growing so quickly and just supporting the capital costs in buying the equipment needed for expansion is difficult ... The cost of new construction was out of the picture so without their assistance this wouldn't be here right now."

Mayor Mike Duggan said that instead of moving to the suburbs, Hake came to the city saying that Detroit was his home and where he wanted to succeed.

“In the next two years this is going to be 1,200 employees and we wanted to make sure those jobs weren’t going out to the suburbs…,” Duggan said.

To make room for the expansion on the landlocked campus, MyLocker tore down a 20,000-square-foot building at 1641 Porter to build the three-story production space housing inventory, shipping and receiving, and corporate offices.

One feature is the robotic inventory system, which makes it faster to retrieve products, Hake said. The company offers 10,000 products to choose from, he said.

The technology is good for employees like Darryl Montgomery, 53, receiving supervisor for MyLocker.

“This expansion for me is kind of personal because I actually work in this department,” Montgomery said, looking at the towering robotic inventory system containing thousands of gray bins. “So I feel like this is my new toy. It’s just going to expedite picking.”

MyLocker is hiring 200 workers immediately for positions in departments including shipping, receiving, embroidery and digital operations. Wages start at $10 an hour and go up to $60,000 annually for supervisory positions, Hake said. 

The company’s location in Detroit is what drew Angela Mendoza, 27, to MyLocker five years ago. Her first role with the company was to catch and sort T-shirts. She's worked her way up to operations manager.   

“It’s like a family environment in here,” Mendoza said. “We’re going to amplify with all the new people who are going to start working with us. It’s empowering for Detroit.”

Twitter: @CWilliams_DN