New to the Outdoors: The American Mountain Co. gives nod to U.S. exploration era

In this reoccurring series, SNEWS identifies and highlights industry start-up brands vying for a place on outdoor specialty retail shelves.
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One of the defining points of outdoor specialty retail is that it is where customers can go to discover what’s truly new. Local shop owners are the ones who often take the risk to bring in a small, start-up brand, differentiating themselves from the big boys. In this reoccurring series, SNEWS will identify and highlight the new kids on the outdoor block vying for a place on those shelves.

As many outdoor brands move toward a futuristic and technical look, The American Mountain Co. is taking it back to the classics.

The brand, which is still in its infancy, was born after Chad Caudill and Brad Sawdon took a walk around the main floor of Outdoor Retailer.

The two came to a realization: everything looked the same, with a dominance of technical and modern flare. The classic look was almost non-existent and on top of that, both Caudill and Sawdon were unsatisfied with the fit of much of the gear.

“Customers were looking for something different and so were we,” Caudill said. “Things were too baggy and we liked a more structured fit. We wanted to make something that stretched and was breathable and waterproof.”

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Although the brand officially launched last summer, Sawdon began working on the brand over a decade ago for a business project in a college class. He only had one product in the line — the 907 shell — and only one retailer in the Michigan area sold it.

When The American Mountain Co. officially launched at the Summer Market 2013, Caudill said the brand got an “overwhelmingly great response.”

“Retailers are searching for new and compelling brands and so are consumers,” he said. “The classic look isn’t common right now. Products don’t need to look futuristic in order to be technical. Our products have the technical features, but they don’t look technical.”

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Their new line for men, which will land in stores in fall 2014, consists of five items: a hardshell jacket, a hooded moisture-wicking sweater, high-altitude hardshell trousers, a softshell jacket, and mitts. Each of the products is named after a different area code.

“We were tired of seeing typical mountain lingo for product names,” Caudill said.

The hope is to appeal to both technical consumers, who are interested in the fabric and function — it's teamed up with top textile brands Schoeller, Polartec, PrimaLoft and Pittards for its pieces — and lifestyle customers, who are all about style.

The American Mountain Co. is about more than just the clothes though. The company also has a mission: “We are going to change things one stitch at a time.”

All of the company’s products are all made in the United States, a decision the founders made in the hopes of creating more jobs and supporting the local economy in the hard-hit home of Detroit. As of this fall, the gear will be sold in locations all over the world, ranging from San Francisco to Las Vegas to Australia, and, of course, Detroit.

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Right now, Caudill said he and Sawdon are putting every penny into the brand with the goal of one day competing with larger brands.

The quality of their product, Caudill said, is already up to par to compete with high-end brands. All of their products are guaranteed for life.

Although Caudill and Sawdon’s eye is on growth, they don’t want to forsake their story and their goals to achieve that.

“We don’t want to just go to any retailers,” Caudill said. “We want partners who get what we’re doing. That’s creating jobs in the U.S. and selling quality, classic gear.”

Caudill and Sawdon are currently developing six more products set to appear in stores in spring and summer 2015.

--Becca Stanek

Does The American Mountain Co. have what it takes to make it in your specialty outdoor retail store? Share your thoughts below or on our Facebook page. Or, email us about another newcomer to the outdoors we should feature here.

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