CLE Clothing opens third storefront ahead of holiday rush

Earlier this month, Cleveland Clothing Co. (CLE) opened a new location in Uptown at 11435 Euclid Ave. The shop joins three other CLE ventures: Native Cleveland at 15813 Waterloo Road, Cleveland Clothing Co. at 342 Euclid Ave. downtown, and a holiday pop up shop in Legacy Village.
"We've been working on this over a year now with the developer," says CLE owner/founder Mike Kubinski of the newest venture, tagging MRN Ltd., the real estate development force behind the resurrections of both East Fourth Street and Uptown. MRN had a space available and offered it up to Kubinski, who jumped at the chance.
The new store will employ four or five, bringing CLE's total workforce close to 30. The company is the brainchild of Kubinski and Jeff Reese, who started it in on a creative whim in 2008. At the time, Kubinski was 28 and working as a graphic designer… sort of.
"I worked for a company doing packaging graphics, but I was relegated to the box of packaging," he says, which meant drawing up directions, cautions and regulatory information. "I needed a creative outlet."
The duo saw a void for Cleveland-centric clothing, so they purchased some shirts and a printing press and got to it. Now they've grown to the retail outlets, a warehouse in the Lake Erie Building (aka the Screw Factory) and a robust online business via their website.
Kubinski takes pride in a few well-earned achievements, starting with brand establishment. Everyone knows that CLE skull and crossbones means apparel and gear for 216 aficionados. The iconic trademark graces the front left breast and back of one the company's best-selling shirts.
"We can't keep them in stock," says Kubinski of the CLE Logo Tee. "That's truly a testimony of what we've done."
He cites another achievement: CLE is debt free.
"In 2008, they weren't handing out business loans," recalls Kubinski. Great Recession notwithstanding, he and Rees plowed forward, putting every nickel they earned into printing more shirts. They were riding on a wing and a prayer and a voice from inside only a northeast Ohioan could understand.
"In 2008, the economy was down; Cleveland was down," says Kubinski. "But there was this shop local/local pride that was starting. We could see that the renaissance had started. We wanted to be on the forefront of what was to come."
Cleveland Clothing Co. never looked back, but the founders did start to look around and found organizations worthy of a helping hand. To that end, CLE has donated creative efforts and portions of proceeds to The Gathering Place, the Cleveland Metroparks, the Cleveland Hearing and Speech Center, the Greater Cleveland Food Bank and the West Side Market (WSM) in the aftermath of the 2013 fire.

For the WSM effort, they created a tee shirt to sell with the proceeds to help make affected tenants whole. Along with efforts from Michael Symon, they raised $13,000 for the WSM Vendor Relief Fund.
"That was really cool because it was helping small businesses just like us during hard times," recalls Kubinski.
They didn't stop there. They continued selling the shirts, with 20 percent of proceeds going towards the market's subsequent restoration, in order to "make sure we have the market for another 100 years," says Kubinski, adding that the firm's ongoing philanthropic efforts go to entities big and small, public and private.
"We're always connected to the community."

Read more articles by Erin O'Brien.

Erin O'Brien's eclectic features and essays have appeared in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Cleveland Plain Dealer and others. The sixth generation northeast Ohioan is also author of The Irish Hungarian Guide to the Domestic Arts. Visit for complete profile information.
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