This week on Friendly Friday I am chatting with Baxter’s oldest friend, Matt Renna, who recently launched Boulevard East with his co-founder, Joey Bardwell. Matt and Baxter have been friends since they were in diapers! And they have stayed best friends ever since. I dug deep to find some fun photos of all of us together : (top left) celebrating my birthday in Napa and (top right) at Matt’s wedding to his wife Risa – you can see Baxter and me in the background!.
We are so excited to celebrate Matt on this exciting new venture and I asked him the questions below to share with you all.
How did you and Joey come up with the idea for Boulevard East?
While Boulevard East officially launched our website in September of 2017, the seeds for Boulevard East were planted in early 2014 when my co-founder Joey read an article in a popular style magazine showing readers “How to make your own leather wallet”. Let’s just say that first piece turned out closer to a leather brick than a leather wallet, but Joey’s persistence and curiosity took him deeper into the leather industry where he began hand-crafting briefcases, duffel bags and small leather goods for friends and family. During this time, Joey and I were introduced. I had been working as a commercial banker with several companies in this industry across the United States. After a year and a half of research and design, a number of failed product samples and a garage full of leather and sewing equipment, we launched the newest Dallas based leather goods company, Boulevard East.
We wouldn’t be the same brand or be where we are today without the support of the Dallas community. Dallas used to be an epicenter for the garment industry where companies intentionally branded their clothing “Made in Dallas” as a sign of quality. Unfortunately, between cheaper international labor and local travesties (i.e. JFK assassination) the garment industry began to deteriorate and skilled labor all but left our city through the 60’s and 70’s. Our long term vision remains the same at Boulevard East, which is to bring all of our manufacturing to Dallas – a city currently made up mostly of service based businesses. Additionally, we have learned on industry veterans like Bedrock Manufacturing and local up-and-coming brands like Mizzen and Main and Hari Mari for business and operational feedback, collaborated with world-class influencers for consumer insight, and partnered with retail stores like DLM Supply for guidance and feedback as we launch into the market.Fun Fact : “Boulevard East” is actually named after the road which Reunion Tower is located on. Joey’s wife suggested shortening the street name from “Reunion Boulevard East” and call our brand “Boulevard East” as subtle recognition to this resilient city we live in.
Our Navy and Green Barrel Bags are both Joey and my favorites given the versatility of style and classic color ways selected. I carry mine as a gym bag and weekender, while Joey carries his during the week travel across his sales territory (remember we still have day jobs!). The really fun part of carrying these bags (and all of our leather goods for that matter) is watching them patina, or break in, as they tell the story of the places they have traveled… hence our tag line “Find Your Journey”.
Christmas will be here before we know it! What should the ladies buy for their guys?
If you really want to wow your guy, we definitely suggest one of our barrel bags. We’re a bit partial to the Navy Barrel Bag as it travels perfectly with both a suit and tie or jeans and t-shirt, but the Hunter Green adds a nice depth of color and travels perfectly through the cooler Fall and Winter seasons. If your guy doesn’t plan on traveling much this year, then we suggest one of our Slim Wallets or Four-Pocket Wallets to add a touch of class and pop of color to their every day carry game.
Anything else exciting happening with Boulevard East?
Boulevard East has only been live for 6 weeks now, but our barrel bags have already been featured in a local Oak Cliff fashion show, displayed at the “Magnolia Silo-bration” in Waco, TX and even selling at our first retail location (second location announcement coming soon!), DLM Supply, D Magazine’s Top Men’s Store of 2017! Additionally we will have products featured in two different well respected local publications in the near future as a Gift Guide for the Holidays. The other exciting news right now is that we are finalizing designs on additional bag styles which we’re looking to drop in early 2018, so be on the lookout guys AND girls! Lastly, we will have a pop up show at DLM Supply this evening (6PM) as part of the 3rd Annual Fall Block Walk in Oak Cliff, and we will also have a booth at FleaStyle tomorrow (10/21) at Market Hall. Swing on by to say hello and check out some Boulevard East products.