If you haven’t been clued in to Pennington & Bailes’ unique blend of college pride and traditional style, it’s time to take notice. The brand has been featured in Southern Living, Vogue and Garden and Gun, and has been worn by football royalty like Steve Spurrier, Shelley Meyer and a loyal following of boosters.
Mel Pennington and Tygh Bailes started Pennington and Bailes in 2005 to fill a void in the collegiate apparel market for better made, higher end collegiate clothing. Their specialties include stadium pants, polos and conservative styles that could easily go from the golf course to a casual cocktail party with friends. Comprised of four full-time employees, half a dozen interns and a team of consultants and college representatives, the company boasts a small infrastructure with an international reach.
“At times we still feel like a young startup, but we’ve seen amazing growth the past few years,” Bailes says. “We’re a small business, but we manufacture domestically and overseas, source fabric from all over the world and travel to different parts of the country for trade shows and conferences.”
Mel and Tygh originated Pennington & Bailes in Washington, D.C., while maintaining their career jobs during traditional office hours. The company decided to relocate as the need to focus on product development grew more demanding. After dabbling with the thought of moving their family somewhere like Charleston, Charlotte or even Atlanta, in 2008 Bailes and his wife, Stephanie—a Gator grad—went with the obvious choice: a college town.A small town with plenty of resources and Southern culture, Gainesville provides the company with a home base to hone their brand and expand their merchandise line to roughly 50 different universities.
“We’re committed to Gainesville; it’s a great place where we hope to continue to grow and help create new jobs,” Bailes says. “We will eventually have to move into a bigger space. We are kind of bursting at the seams as it is.”
Currently situated atop Lillian’s Music Store downtown, Pennington and Bailes’ operations span 800 square feet of offices, a lobby and a decked-out club room. The office is constantly changing to meet the staff’s needs, with a studio that shifts from photo den to storage space when new samples arrive. There’s a Keurig for coffee breaks, and a carefully selected collection of antique furniture that ties into the brand’s Southern roots.
With such a small team, Bailes tries to get as much of the staff involved in daily operations as possible, both out of necessity and in an effort to help them grow and stay challenged. “ I always want to make sure that we are providing the best opportunities so everyone is working on their strengths,” Bailes says.
Interns who have proven their dedication to the company have been hired full-time, and the founders want to continue to invest in employees. “I think the happiest environment is one where everyone on the team feels challenged and invested in what we are doing,” Bailes said.
The brand hopes to see more clothing businesses move into the downtown area in the coming years, and has goals of moving all of their operations to the area and opening a storefront of their own in town in the next few years.
Right now, the company sells directly through their website, as well as through stores like Nordstrom, Orvis and the University of Florida Bookstore on campus. To learn more about Pennington & Bailes, visit penningtonandbailes.com.