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About Us

In 1992, Keith Clark, a Washington, DC architect had an idea. He wanted to create a neighborhood store where fashion-conscious guys could go to for all their fashion needs. As he explored the idea, he was introduced to David Franco, a DC entrepreneur looking for a new venture. The idea immediately appealed to David who had extensive retail experience from his management and co-ownership of two of his family's four discount department stores. Together they developed the idea--researched retail locations, forged relationships with key brands and after a lot of hard work, opened the first Universal Gear store in 1993.

Universal Gear started as a small boutique in DC's Dupont Circle neighborhood and had a simple goal-to provide a fun and lively atmosphere staffed with friendly, helpful and knowledgeable salespeople who made customers feel comfortable and appreciated and to fill the store with a selection of great merchandise that represents “the best of” fashion from different designers.

Since its opening, Universal Gear DC has grown to more than 3,500 square feet of space on two levels. In 1998, David and Keith opened Universal Gear Chicago in the Lakeview East section of town, with 3,900 square feet of retail space. A year later, as the company grew, they brought on Ricardo Zapata (then an MBA summer intern) to research the eCommerce potential for the company. That research led to the launch of universalgear.com in the winter of 1999. The online store gives customers all over the world access to some of the great brands we carry (we now have regular customers in Japan, Brazil and the UK among other countries).

In November of 2001, Universal Gear opened its flagship store in the trendy Chelsea section of Manhattan with 2,500 square feet of retail space. The company transformed the former Blockbuster location into a dynamic, pulsating shopping environment with 24-foot high ceilings, dance music listening stations, aluminum and polycarbonate fixtures and a mezzanine level.

Universal Gear Atlanta opened in November of 2002, with roughly 3,000 square feet on the first floor of the Metropolis towers (a multi-use high rise residential building) with the same design aesthetic as Universal Gear NY only with a dramatic double-story glass façade entrance. Universal Gear Atlanta has played a key part in the revitalization of the Midtown section of Atlanta making Peachtree Street a walking district of shops, restaurants, cafes and services.

Universal Gear has always been a part of the communities surrounding our store locations as both a leading retailer and as a contributing member. Our charitable contributions have taken many forms over the years. For instance, since 2001, we have collected thousands of pairs of jeans through our annual Donate Your Denim promotion, where customers are encouraged to bring in old pairs of jeans that we donate to local charities. We've helped non-profits raise money by donating clothing and gift certificates for silent auctions. The non-profits we've worked with are as diverse as our customers and employees and include organizations focused on AIDS relief and education, the homeless, breast cancer research, youth and minority counseling centers, disaster relief and a variety of groups focused on issues relevant to the gay and lesbian community.

Since 1993, Universal Gear has become a premier retailer of clothing and accessories for the fashion-conscious man. We have established a solid reputation for superior customer service and a strong selection of men's contemporary sportswear. To do that, we attend trade shows across the country (from Las Vegas to Miami to New York) and even travel the world in search of new undiscovered brands (read about some of our recent trips in our blog). Our top brands include old favorites like Diesel, G-Star, Levi's, Energie, Ben Sherman, Penguin, 2(x)ist, Calvin Klein, Andrew Christian, 7 for All Mankind, Adidas, Nike, Puma, Ajaxx63, Swiss Army, 4 You, LASC as well as newer ones such as Modern Amusement, Affliction, Meltin' Pot, Junk Food, C-IN2, Play, Baskit, Replay, Citizens of Humanity and True Religion. In addition to these, we manufacture our own line of t-shirts, athleticwear, cashmere sweaters and board shorts under the Universal Gear label. Imported brands include Bluman swimwear from Brazil and underwear brands like AussieBum and DT from Australia. To learn more about our current brands, trends and general fashion articles (including interviews with our models), visit our new blog at UG UNZIPPED.

To join the UG team, send an email and resume to jobs@universalgear.com.

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