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Title Nine store manager Kelly Whittaker

Title Nine Opens in Kerrytown

Clothes for sporty women

by Shelley Daily

From the February, 2020 issue

"We'd been looking at Ann Arbor for a very long time," says Michele Coddington--head of stores for Title Nine, the Berkeley, CA-based women's athletic wear and clothing company--about its newest store, which opened at Kerrytown Market & Shops last April. Ann Arbor women are "adventurous, they travel, they're gals on the go ..." she says, and Title Nine has a solid concentration of web and catalog customers here. But choosing a location wasn't easy.

"The only place we wanted to be was Main St.," Coddington says. Then she came for a visit: "Wow--it's all restaurants!" Coddington expanded her search and learned of a vacancy at Kerrytown. Still undecided, she emailed Title Nine's top hundred Ann Arbor customers for their opinions. "They were split down the middle" between Main and Kerrytown, Coddington says. Ultimately, she decided that Kerrytown offered "the right mix" for the company, which borrows its name from the landmark federal law that prohibits discrimination based on sex and was founded in 1989 by athlete Missy Park, who started by selling sports bras out of her garage.

Right now it's the only nonlocal store at Kerrytown, but "we don't have a rule about this," says Kerrytown president Andrew O'Neal. He notes that the center has had national stores in the past, including Workbench furniture. "We want good, solid, unique tenants," and he thinks that Title Nine "expands the draw of Kerrytown."

This is the company's nineteenth and easternmost store. Store manager Kelly Whittaker says word traveled fast on Facebook when the opening was announced--"We have clientele that's been with us forever," she explains. She's seeing customers from metro Detroit, Grand Rapids, and Toledo--as well as mothers who are in town visiting their U-M students.

"I had a lot of moms who took a break on move-in day to come in ... Big Ten [football] and graduation weekends are big for us too," Whittaker says. While the daughters of these moms still favor the ubiquitous Lululemon legging, Title

...continued below...

Nine's niche is active women in their early thirties and up. Top-selling items include hiking pants that can go from "workout to dinner," reversible running tights, quarter-zip pullovers, and Nordic-looking sweater dresses and tunics designed to be worn over leggings or tights.

"Pockets are key," Whittaker says, and most of their dresses and skirts have them. Title Nine sells its own brand and also carries Patagonia, KUHL, Brooks, Toad&Co, Krimson Klover, and others. But bras are "what we're really known for," Whittaker says. Dozens of options line the back wall, and staff "bravangelists" are trained to fit customers because, according to Coddington, "it's the single most important piece of equipment a woman can buy."

A mural of photos "In Praise of Difficult Women" highlights female leaders--from Joan of Arc to Beyonce--and a quote from Abby Wambach about having to go through hard times to get to "the good stuff" is featured on another wall. All are designed to spark inspiration--and conversation.

"I disagree about retail being dead," Coddington says. "It has to be a meaningful experience. It has to be real and interactive. The store is the face of our brand and where women can converse with like-minded women."

An avid exerciser and mother of two daughters in their twenties, Whittaker says she loves to chat with customers, including members of running clubs and women who travel the world. "These women are an inspiration."

Title Nine, 415 N. Fifth Ave. (Kerrytown Market & Shops, in the courtyard across from the Lunch Room), (734)332-4955, Sun. 11 a.m.-5 p.m., Mon.-Fri. 10 a.m.-6 p.m., Sat. 9 a.m.-6 p.m.     (end of article)

[Originally published in February, 2020.]


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