704 Shop might not ring a bell, but the designs hard to miss. It’s nearly a requirement to buy one of their flagship shirts upon accepting Charlotte as home. The brand has become iconic for Queen City pride.
The store, which started out as an online retailer about five years ago, recently opened its first brick and mortar storefront in a growing area of South End. Creator Scott Wooten said it was only supposed to be the one design, not the fashion and lifestyle brand 704 Shop has become.
“Initially it wasn’t planned to be what it has turned into now. I was born and raised here, but I ended up in Pittsburgh for a job. The thing about Pittsburgh is that the hometown pride that’s there is just oozing year-round. They are proud to be from Pittsburgh, they will tell you about it,” Wooten said. “And growing up here, I always wondered why that wasn’t a thing for us. I wanted to do something about it.”
After about three years, Wooten and his brother-in-law started playing with designs—thanks to some pushing from his wife.
“My wife was finally like, ‘Are you going to do something about it, or am I going to have to hear you talk about it for forever.’”
Wooten teamed up with his UNC Charlotte college roommates, Jerri Shephard and Christopher Moxley.
“Jerry handles all the shipping. So if you make an order online, he packs it up, he ships it, he touches everything. And Chris is our networking guy. He goes to a lot of different events for us. He’s also a business consultant, he’s got a lot of great experience.”
704 Shop launched as an online shop as the barrier for entry was lower. Wooten said that while it was easier to start online in some respects, it was harder to find the customer base for what they were doing as far as quality. Eventually they stumbled up pop up shops. “We did one one time and we made $2,000 in a day. We never made $2,000 in a month before.”
The following happened organically at first. Wooten said that for two years, they couldn’t give away a shirt. He was ready to quit. But he reached out to artist Matt Moore with a hat.
“I was trying to make fans, rather than customers. We were trying to make customers for so long that we just were not connecting. So I just sent him the hat and said, ‘If you think it’s cool, wear it. We’ll see what happens.’”
Moore took a photo oh himself in the hat, in front of a mural he was painting on The Local. Katie Levans saw the photo and was writing for CharlotteFive at the time. She included 704 Shop on a list of one of the five local brands people should buy from.
“So we kind of had this validation from this third party that we had never had until that point. That’s when I started trying to do a couple of other designs, outside of just our logo,” said Wooten.
Wooten and his team took those other designs to a series of pop up shops, and most recently to their storefront in South End. The initial space was raw, with dirt flirts. That was the intriguing part—they could set it up how they wanted it. Permitting was a hurdle, though.
“It’s not that bad if you know what questions to ask and what permits to get. The problem is, we didn’t know what we didn’t know.”
Now that the storefront is open, the goal is to build a community and help push culture forward in Charlotte. “The biggest advantage is that personal connection.”