By KALEA HALL
Matt McClure has a lot of pride for Youngstown.
It's his home, and he wants to show it off – especially now since life took him outside of the area for work.
The pride is what led the 36-year-old entrepreneur to start Youngstown Clothing Co., a T-shirt, sweatshirt, hoodie and other apparel company with Youngstown flavor, in 2015.
"I knew that because sometimes people are from here and life takes them other places, and I thought there was potential for a business," McClure said. "I just kind of started doing it on the side but with the hopes of turning it to my full-time job. I just took a risk in the beginning put up a website with a couple of designs."
Some of the first designs included a "City of Champions" print with boxing gloves to recognize the city's rich boxing history, and McClure revamped some of the old logos of Youngstown high schools Rayen, Chaney and East.
"I just made an idea board of all the cool [Youngstown] things," McClure said. "I loved growing up here. I knew I loved it. I didn't realize it until I left. I missed it."
McClure, who graduated from Struthers High School in 2000, wasn't alone in his love for Youngstown and Youngstown nostalgia.
The fun Youngstown Clothing Co. designs quickly grew in popularity after McClure started selling at The Youngstown Flea, a small business/artisan's market that's now in its third season.
"They embody what The Youngstown flea is all about," said Derrick McDowell, founder of The Flea. "We want to be an incubator. We want to be a launching pad and a champion for small business and entrepreneurs."
Quality and creativity are what got the company to where it is today, McDowell said. Youngstown Clothing Co.'s products are all made in the U.S. and printed in Youngstown. Several members of the McClure family help to make the apparel company thrive.
"I am so glad that they have thrived and flourished," McDowell said. "The flea allows [businesses] the opportunity to begin with less fear about the leap."
Youngstown Clothing Co. just finished its second holiday season with a kiosk of apparel at the Southern Park Mall and now McClure has a local operations space for the business in Youngstown instead of his basement in Columbus.
"It has steadily grown," he said.
The apparel company isn't McClure's full-time job yet, but he's hopeful it will be.
Until then, he keeps developing designs, keeps selling and keeps growing the apparel's popularity.
To date, Youngstown Clothing Co. has about 50 designs including a "Beam Me Up" shirt to remember the famous quip from the late U.S. Rep. James A. Traficant Jr., Mill Creek MetroParks designs and Idora Park.
Youngstown's tradition of cookie tables at weddings and the "Holy War" between Cardinal Mooney and Ursuline high schools in football and basketball are other T-shirt designs for Youngstowners to flaunt.
"I didn't even know that cookie tables weren't a thing elsewhere," McClure said. "It's just a special area with really cool traditions."
Some of the best sellers are the Youngstown State University products and "The Yo" designs.
Outside of local popups and Stone Fruit Coffee Co. in Boardman, which Youngstown Clothing Co. recently partnered with, the apparel can be purchased online.
"We ship all over the country," McClure said.
McClure is in search of a retail location somewhere in the Youngstown area. He's also in search of new designs.
Youngstown Clothing Co. is asking local designers to submit their designs. The company will pick its favorites to sell and will pay the designer royalties. The contest runs through Jan. 31.
"That's something we are excited about," McClure said.
For information on Youngstown Clothing Co. go to: www.youngstownclothingco.com/.