Even as men's fashion changes with each season, there is something timeless about jeans and a T-shirt. The first pair of jeans was patented in 1873 by Levi Strauss Co.; the first T-shirt was made in 1898. The basic designs have not been revamped in over a hundred years because they were classic to start; they're part of every American's wardrobe.
But quality counts with jeans and T-shirts as well as more dressy apparel. That's why Josh Greenlee opened Timber Trade Company at 3070 Blake Street #170 a year ago. As Timber Trade was preparing to celebrate its one-year anniversary, we spoke with Greenlee about the origins of his menswear shop and why Timber Trade Company is a lifestyle more than a brand.
Westword: What inspired you to open Timber Trade Company?
Josh Greenlee: I wanted a place that is comfortable for me and the customer. My inspiration was to fill a void in the market, as far as being fashion-forward and things like that. It's been a passion of mine. I've worked for a while in retail; I guess my ambition was to improve upon it. Make it better and make it more quality. I'm a big environmental advocate and try to reduce the amount of clothes that end up in landfills every year. We try to make stuff that lasts and ages well.
I got my first pair of Red Wing boots when I was a kid, at a gas station in central Kansas. Now they sell them at Nordstrom. I like where the market is heading and I like changing people's minds. I have a small part in the grand scheme of things to make it better. I would like to pivot and turn and point it in a new direction.
What attracted you to Denver?
I was born and raised in Kansas City; I am a generation removed from family in Colorado. My dad grew up in Denver. We were always hiking as a family and going outdoors. It was a natural progression for me to come out west. Seven years ago, Denver wasn't nearly what it is now, and it's crazy to see so much that has changed in Denver. I was just out of college, and the energy here is great; there was a calling to be a part of it.
What do you think about your neighborhood, RiNo?
There is lots of branding involved with neighborhoods, like LoHi. RiNo is great. RiNo is my spot. I live here; I work here. Just the community here is fantastic. There are a lot of independent retailers and restaurants. It's the perfect fit for us, the perfect demographic. We are the embodiment of a mom-and-pop type spot. Everyone here has been nothing but supportive. Good people, good neighborhood. I just feel like there is a lot changing with Denver and with money; it can change the identity of neighborhoods, and it can change the people. It's just tough: The community in RiNo has been very stick-to-their-guns about their cultural identity.
How did Timber Trade Company become encompassing of this outdoor lifestyle?
I wanted to make shopping comfortable, friendly and approachable. I like meeting people. This neighborhood is perfect for that. In the pas,t I had bad experiences buying clothes. You're getting sold or getting ignored; there was never anything in between. I just went with my gut and what I would want in a shopping experience. So when people come in, they can have a beer or pop in, pop out. That's just how it goes. It's good conversation and good vibes and attracts the right people.
The void I saw was a void within myself. This is the kind of store we want to pull people back into local retail and away from online shopping. The stuff we sell is good stuff, and it's stuff that you need to try on, because body types are different. We have a type of jean for everybody. Trying on jeans is a process. It's nice to help people find the perfect pair of jeans that you can break in and never wash. A pair of jeans that you can live in and create memories in. That's what we're trying to create. Japanese denim is fantastic denim. We carry Japanese-manufactured products because they have a similar mindset: meticulously crafted and attention to detail. We are just looking for quality-made stuff.
Do you build any furniture and woodwork?
Yeah, I grew up doing it. I built mostly everything in the store. My dad is an interior architect. I built houses and furniture. That is my pastime.
When people commission furniture, like desks from Timber Trade Company, who builds them?
Yeah, that's me. I design the clothing we make and the furniture. I guess I have a knack for it. ... The kind of stuff I like building now is more functional, stuff you can put your feet on and not use a coaster. That's what I like and that's what I build. People like it, they respond to it. Especially with outdoor furniture, people are moving away from dainty furniture, so we are building things that will last. We're in it for the long haul.
Just like the clothes?
I always try to make this comparison: If you care where your food comes from, you should care where your clothes come from.
Do you carry any brands from Colorado?
We love Winter Session and Topo Designs. We design T-shirts in-house and use local printing companies. We do as much as we can. We did a collaboration with our friends who work in leather to make these label belts. We carry Colorado craft coffee. We are trying not to compete with one another, trying to live together symbiotically and be successful and work together
What is the common thread between all the brands you carry?
Heritage. Heritage-inspired not only in design, but in the overall profile aesthetic and even the ethos. The attention to quality and attention to detail, down to the thread and the ribbons and buttons. That is why we picked them, because they all share that commonality.
What kinds of products do you design in-house?
We started making T-shirts for spring/summer 2018. We made a small round of short-sleeved shirts we designed and patterned in-house; we sourced top-grade Japanese fabric from Los Angeles. We made that line and we had our 25 units sell out in a week. They went over really well because people are hungry for Colorado-made stuff. So we are going to try to repeat that.
We have a ton of fall lines dropping almost every day here at the shop. Some of our current favorites are Railcar denim for both men and women's raw selvedge jeans, and also work-wear like chore jackets and shirting. We like Free & Easy, out of L.A., that are the makers of the "Don't Trip" hats and apparel that are super-popular right now. We also took on Bradley Mountain luggage that is made in San Diego.
Do you participate in any fashion shows?
Not yet. We want to be more involved in the Denver fashion scene, but right now we are just getting our legs under us. Every now and then we will do a Whiskey Club with Work Horse Rat Whiskey from San Francisco. We have a good Instagram following. We would like to get a liquor license for the rooftop soon. We do collaboration as much as possible. There are a lot of creative people here in RiNo.
What are three words you would use to describe the personality or style of the store?
Never, ever compromise. Not on quality, on style, on things that you believe in...whether it be clothes or even food. Fashion comes and goes, but there should always be a refrain of what you believe in and what you support. Like supporting local business and supporting domestic manufacturing where people are treated well and paid for their wages. You don't want to wear something when the people who made it were treated bad. Everyone can make some small sacrifice or contribution; it doesn't need to be huge. Every little bit helps.
Anything you would like to add?
We are always expanding our line. I started with a budget in mind, of what I was going to carry as far as manufacturers go, but I ended up tripling that. That's because I don't want an empty shop. I want to carry something for everyone. I don't want anyone to leave empty-handed...so we are expanding our boot and denim collection, expanding our manufacturers and dropping a few, kind of still finding the right fit. That's just what you do in the first year of retail. We are just trying to keep going and have fun doing it.
I want to make it fun because people pick up on that when they walk in. I want to keep a really good disposition about it, because this what I love to do, and this is what I worked really hard for years to do. It makes me really happy because it's a creative outlet for me, so I always want to push forward with it, and progress and change. Because I know fashion trends only last for six or seven years at most; there is a rise and fall. So we are just going to keep going and keep our identity. We intend to be around for a long time and grow with the neighborhood, kind of one of the only neighborhoods that hasn't been built out yet. They are still building it; it's just really spotty.
Hopefully when it is filled out, we have a good curation of places and we can all work together and make something really special and really cool.
Timber Trade Company will celebrate its one-year anniversary on Tuesday, October 23, with a private party at 3070 Blake Street #170 for friends and customers. Find more information here.
Keep Westword Free... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Denver with no paywalls.