Lessons in Irony

Today, I decided to walk down to my landlady’s property management firm to pay my rent and deliver the unit inspection form on my new place.

On my way back, I walked past the storefront for fourOsix, one of Montana’s most successful independent brands, and certainly the most successful from Helena. You’ll find fourOsix stickers on basically every Subaru Forester and ski-rack-toting Civic that you pass on the Interstate; they’ve become a symbol of Montana. The owner, Papu, is a fellow that I’d met several times before, and I noticed he was in today. So, perplexed as to why my clothing company didn’t work out, I decided to step inside to see what I could learn.

Papu was upstairs in the office loft on the phone. He greeted me from his vantage point and said he’d be down shortly. I smiled and waved, then went to look around the store. I saw a lot of winter outerwear, beanies and backpacks. There was a small womenswear section and a slightly larger menswear section; I didn’t really see anything that caught my eye, especially with the beautiful weather we were having.

I walked over to the counter in the corner where the screenprinting station was, and looked into the glass display cases. There were some sunglasses, hats and a few other things; but what caught my eye was the belts. There were two heavy canvas belts with a bit of leather on the end, and a metal buckle. It looked rugged and stylish, and it was black, which was something that I had been wanting for a while.

Papu came down a few minutes later, and after chatting for a second, I asked if I could look at them. Unfortunately, one was a large and the other a medium, neither of which would fit my slight frame. I really liked the build, however; and the price was great, too. Definitely something I’d have paid on the spot had one of them fit. I asked Papu, “Hey, who does your manufacturing?”

To which he replied, “Oh, these are actually from Rothco.”

I literally couldn’t believe what I’d just heard.

For those of you who don’t know, Rotcho was the company from which I sourced my products for Counterthreads, the business endeavor that didn’t get a single sale. There was a time that I told myself that it failed because of the products I had chosen and the market I had chosen to offer them to, but here I was in one of the most successful stores in Montana, and the only product that I gravitate towards is one that I literally already had sold. Ironic, no? It definitely showed me that my products were solid and my market was there.

I ended up chatting with Papu for a while longer, and swapped numbers with him. I’m hoping to take him out to coffee and pick his brain a little more; I’ll always seize any opportunity to talk with someone playing the game at a higher level than I am. He also completely changed my perspective of online sales for small-ticket items, like stickers. That’s a story for another day.

I’m very glad I took ten minutes out of my day to learn something. Do you have any similarly ironic experiences to share?

Cover photo by Jason O’Neil for The Local.

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