Kitsbow Apparel, PBC Partners with Eagle Market Streets Development Corporation to Buy and Develop the Old Fort Community Building
January 10, 2022
Education, Workforce Development, and Inclusivity in Downtown Old Fort, N.C.
Old Fort, N.C. (January 10, 2022) /OUTDOOR SPORTSWIRE/ – Kitsbow, maker of premium cycling clothing and accessories, announces its partnership with Eagle Market Streets Development Corporation (EMSDC), to purchase a 60,000-square-foot warehouse in the center of Old Fort, N.C. with plans to develop it into a multi-use community center, which will be used as a school for industrial sewing, as well as retail and light manufacturing space for startup businesses, and room for Kitsbow to continue expanding in Old Fort. The transaction closed December 30, 2021.
Headquartered in Western North Carolina, Eagle Market Streets Development Corporation is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization and has served the Asheville Buncombe community in property development, economic development and access to human services since it was founded in 1994.
Both Kitsbow and EMSDC share common goals of economic development in downtown Old Fort, which has begun to blossom since the arrival of Kitsbow and Hillman Beer in 2019. The Old Fort Community Building will provide education and training to help local residents to develop their careers, in collaboration with McDowell Technical Community College. EMSDC is already supporting budding entrepreneurs through existing programs, and the Old Fort Community Building will provide an additional retail and light manufacturing space for entrepreneurs as they grow.
The new building is owned and managed by EMSDC, which brings decades of experience providing property development, economic development, and workforce development in Western North Carolina. Kitsbow has committed to occupying 50% of the building (30,000-sq. ft.) for use in training industrial sewing, as well as expanding production, for decades to come.
Additional tenants – including both businesses and non-profit organizations – will be welcome to apply to lease space in the building provided their business or organization is consistent with the overall vision. Priority will be given to organizations that are led by women, people of color, underrepresented communities, and/or employee owned.
Kitsbow is a public benefit corporation, with a majority of ownership by employees, and makes premium apparel in the United States instead of overseas (unlike 98% of the apparel sold in the U.S., which is made offshore). The company has pioneered training a workforce with no prior experience to make beautiful apparel, and is applying for certified B Corp status.
One concept of what the warehouse in downtown Old Fort could become with thoughtful development (image courtesy of Kitsbow)
Since relocating to Old Fort, N.C. in late 2019, Kitsbow has focused on training a workforce with no prior experience making premium apparel, helping build trails in Old Fort for access by all, making PPE for first responders and medical professionals, making apparel in a sustainable way, building and operating a unique retail service with excellent and healthy food made locally, hosting the first bike shop in Old Fort in decades, using only compostable materials in all shipping and packaging, and creating generous employee benefits, such as 100% health care insurance paid by the company.
“This partnership between Kitsbow and EMSDC is an opportunity to ensure that there is affordable and beautiful space in the core of Old Fort’s downtown available to entrepreneurs from underrepresented communities,” stated Stephanie Swepson-Twitty, CEO of Eagle Market Streets Development Corporation and a resident of Old Fort. “We are committed to including community input to the design of the space, and ensuring this is a resource that we can all feel pride for our town.”
“The leaders at Kitsbow got to know Stephanie and the work EMSDC has done through our collaboration on the mural in downtown Old Fort, and then again with the new trail development in Pisgah National Forest. Frankly, we leapt at the opportunity to collaborate with her on expansion space for our business,” explained David Billstrom, CEO. He added, “Our leaders at Kitsbow embrace social and public good in every way they can, and this is another pathway to combine capitalism with something wonderful for the community.”
A schedule for the planning and development of the building will be available soon.
To apply to lease or otherwise participate in the new building, please email Steven Lawrence: email@example.com.
Kitsbow was established in California, 10 years ago, with each detail of our apparel vetted for quality and style. The clothes are also exceedingly durable, which means they last longer, and that the negative impact of production is minimized. Relocating to Old Fort, North Carolina in 2019, Kitsbow committed to a Just in Time manufacturing model, minimizing waste and maximizing flexibility to serve the customer. Kitsbow clothing (except for gloves and socks) is made in the USA, and all Kitsbow products are packaged and shipped using compostable packaging that’s ready to return to the Earth in your own garden. In 2022, Kitsbow rebooted as a public benefit corporation, and has started the process to become a certified B Corp. Kitsbow also is a Bicycle Friendly Business, designated at the highest level (Platinum) by The League of American Bicyclists. For additional information, please visit kitsbow.com.