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Heads Up: Hat Maker Melin Opens Flagship Store 

SJC apparel company offers upscale lids; partnerships

The opening of a store along South Coast Highway in Laguna Beach marks another sign of expansion for one of Orange County’s faster-growing niche apparel companies.

San Juan Capistrano-based Melin, founded in 2014, makes high-end baseball hats; its headwear retails for around $60 a hat, about double the market average.

The company’s hats are a common sight in retailers in the region, such as Nordstrom, Sunsations and Roger Dunn. Its products are also sold at local resorts including Pelican Hill Resort and Waldorf Astoria Monarch Beach.

The company recently inked partnerships with Dick’s Sporting Goods, as well as outdoor-focused stores Public Lands and Recreational Equipment Inc.

Over the past three years, the company has seen over 100% year-over-year revenue growth, according to co-founders Brian McDonell and Corey Roth; specific revenue figures weren’t provided.

 

Feedback Welcome

Melin opened its flagship store in Laguna Beach on June 16, in a spot not far from Cress Street Beach.

The shop presents a museum-inspired environment with all the company’s hats on display.
McDonell and Roth say the store is not only a place to drive sales, but also to gather consumer feedback.

Most companies open stores “to make sales, but for us, it was to learn and hear about what the customer is saying,” McDonell told the Business Journal.

The store also serves as an educational hub for those new to the brand.

“Customers can come in, try on everything and walk away knowing their exact size, silhouette and preferences,” Roth said.

It’s why McDonell and Roth like to think of the location as less of a store and more of a “customer experience lab.”

Other locations are under consideration going forward, the duo said.

 

College Friends

McDonell and Roth first met at Chico State University in 2001

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After graduating, McDonell and Roth worked in sales for lifestyle brands Split Clothing USA and Ashworth Golf, respectively.

The two stayed in touch even as their careers took them to opposite coasts. They reconvened over 10 years later and founded Melin.

Before starting the business, both McDonell and Roth say they never went anywhere without a hat. Over the years, they grew frustrated that their favorite accessories failed to withstand the wear and tear of their active lifestyles.

“We felt like baseball caps were an afterthought,” Roth said.

“Headwear was kind of the same for suppliers. They made all the ball caps for every brand, whether it was a running brand or a fast-food uniform—literally all the same materials and quality,” McDonell said.

Their goal was to be a standout in the headwear industry with hats that are “higher-performing and longer-lasting.”

It’s a strategy that’s seen success for San Clemente’s Stance, which brought flair and upscale design to a sock industry that was largely ignored prior to its arrival.

Irvine-based footwear company OluKai invested in Melin in 2016.

Both OluKai and Melin “bring to market a truly disruptive and category-creating product line at the top end of their respective markets,” CEO Jim Harris said in a statement at the time of that investment.

Melin hasn’t announced any funding deals since the OluKai partnership.

 

Collections

Melin’s list of brand ambassadors and partners has grown longer along with its offerings.

In April, it launched a line with ambassador Dylan Efron, actor Zac Efron’s brother. Called the Adventure Club Granite Collection, it’s specifically designed for outdoor activity.

This month, the company announced a limited-edition cap with New York Yankees pitcher CC Sabathia, with a percent of proceeds designated for Sabathia’s nonprofit focused on inner city youth.

Other ambassadors include Olympic snowboarder Louie Vito, NASCAR driver John Hunter Nemechek and wakeboarder Steel Lafferty.

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