They're Baaaaaaack!

Historically Inclined

Jerry Cohen, Ebbets Field Flannels

Then & Now
No. of employees
1991: 4
2001: 13
1991: $1 million
2000: $3.3 million
Biggest change
Ebbets Field Flannels has expanded to include vintage hockey and football jerseys.

While We Were Away
Past stat:
The wholesale sports apparel market was worth $12.8 billion in 1991.
Future stat:
The wholesale sports apparel market is projected at $21.05 billion in 2001.
Source: Sporting Goods Manufacturing Association

Fresh off the buzz of baseball films like Field of Dreams and Bull Durham, Jerry Cohen had a hit with his vintage sportswear apparel company, Ebbets Field Flannels, when we profiled him in 1991. With sales approaching $1 million, he'd found his niche.

What he didn't predict was the fact that his specialty would soon become crowded with competitors. "Big fashion companies have taken the looks we originated and spun them into their own fashion design," says Cohen, 43. "Being a small company, it's more challenging to get our message out than it was nine years ago."

Never one to back down from a challenge, Cohen did what few would dare do in the face of hardship: He expanded. He began making vintage baseball hats and apparel in lower price ranges as well as moving into other sports, namely hockey and football. The strategy worked. By 1998, Ebbets Field Flannels had commanded enough attention for the NFL to commission the company to make historically accurate uniforms for the league's nostalgic "Throwback Games." Ebbets Field Flannels have also been worn by rock group Pearl Jam and featured on The Late Show with David Letterman.

Even though the past decade has brought many changes to the historic sports apparel market, the most profound differences are in Cohen himself. Where he once did everything from accounting to marketing, Cohen now enlists the help of professionals to take on the more technical aspects of his Seattle business-like finance and management. That way, he can now concentrate on his first love: sharing the rich history of sports. "We take a product and we wrap an interesting story around it," says Cohen. "We give people a window to the past."

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This article was originally published in the March 2001 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: They're Baaaaaaack!.

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