by Stephen Garner
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This Thursday, May 12 saw the opening of the new Tailgate Clothing store at 525 State Street in Madison, Wisconsin. This is the second store for the little-known collegiate apparel company founded by menswear designer Todd Snyder and his father in 1991. Tailgate opened its first store in Iowa City in 2012, and is also the primary reason American Eagle Outfitters purchased the Todd Snyder business in November for $11 million in cash.

With plans to open a store at the University of Georgia and the University of Tennessee this year, we recently caught up with Snyder to get the scoop on the new store roll-out, the design and concept, and what role American Eagle played in these new openings.

Q: How large is the new store and what are some of the design elements?

A: It’s a 1,700 square-foot store with a coffee shop included. We really wanted to create a modern version of a general store by mixing traditional wainscoting on the walls with industrial furniture and fixtures. It’s very Wisconsin inspired. We mixed a lot of collectibles from the state and the school with black and white photos that we found in the University of Wisconsin athletic photo archive. We also partnered with Kickapoo Coffee from Viroqua, Wisconsin to open our coffee shop. Some of my favorite items that you can’t get anywhere are the graphic tees from local bars and restaurants. We partnered with them to design t-shirts and sell them in our store. We also have an old fashioned candy shop near the checkout counter. We even have a vintage Coke machine that works!

Q: Who designed the space?

A: I designed the space with Brad Shaffer from ACRE Creative.

Q: How are you choosing where to open Tailgate stores?

A: Location, Location, Location is the most important, but we also look at school enrollment and fan base. A lot of it is the feel for a town and the people. We are always looking for something special. Our next store is going to be in an old bank…I can’t wait for that one.

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Q: You have a dedicated Iowa City store on your website where customers can shop University of Iowa merchandise; will you have the same dedicated page for your new locations?

A: We will expand the online/assortment presence for several of our schools. We want to make customers feel like they are in the store while shopping online.

Q: Was this plan to open more Tailgate stores in place before the American Eagle purchase, or was this spearheaded by the new owners?

A: We had planned to open more stores. The AE acquisition has helped to accelerate additional stores for this year. Their support has been incredible.

Q: There are two more stores planned for this year, is there possible growth for 2017 as well?

A: Our strategy is to have three new stores open this year for a total of four. Based on their performance, we will evaluate additional locations in 2017.