Great things are afoot for local sock business
For those who wish to show their personal style in a public way, the Sock It to Me website says it all: "Be Awesome, Wear Awesome."
The Milwaukie-based company supplies fun, kooky socks and matching underwear wholesale to retail outlets like Sock Dreams, New Seasons, Presents of Mind and Powell's Books. Its products also are available directly to the public online at www.sockittome.com.
The local designers at Sock It to Me pride themselves on "delivering unique designs as an avenue for people to express themselves," founder Carrie Atkinson says.
Socks with bananas on skateboards? Check. Sasquatch running wild on underwear? Check. Socks with bowling pins, grizzly bears, adorable kittens clinging to pussywillows? Check, check, check. And that barely scratches the surface of the styles available. As the website advises, make sure you have a big enough sock drawer before ordering.
"Socks kept rising to the surface," Atkinson says, describing her career search after graduating from college. After two years of looking for a meaningful job in Portland, she became an English teacher in South Korea.
"That's where I found the product; all our socks are imported from Korea," she says.
Returning to Portland in 2004, she began selling socks at a stand at the Saturday Market. Her business gradually expanded to fill spare bedrooms and a garage, and she and her employees also outgrew several office spaces in Southeast Portland.
Finally, a 30,000-square-foot warehouse space on Main Street in Milwaukie became available, and the company painted its distinctive logo on the building and moved there in April 2016.
Atkinson says she did not want to move by the airport or suburbs on the west side of Portland. Instead the Milwaukie space manages to "keep the commute down" for the company's 50 full-time employees.
Sock It to Me, 9592 S.E. Main St. in Milwaukie, produces 400 original designs and services over 4,000 wholesale national and international accounts.
Atkinson is taking part in the Ledding Cultural Forum in June to "interact with the community and give a voice to our brand.
"We are the new kid in the neighborhood, and a lot of residents see our building. This is a community-oriented company, and [Milwaukie] is a good city for us to engage with the community, rather than just being a vendor," she says.
What sets Sock It to Me apart is that "we really care about taking care of the people who work here. We treat everyone with kindness and respect. We're doing a lot of special things for our team. We've played laser tag, and we went to the Milwaukie Bowl and had pizza together."
The company establishes a sales goal every year. "We are very inclusive. We all come together and everyone knows the health of the company," Atkinson says. "Every quarter we tell people how we're doing and if we exceeded our sales goal."
Last year the company took many of its employees on an all-expenses-paid trip to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.
"There are so many benefits to doing this. People brought their significant others, and I really loved this time together. We saw people from other departments and intermingled — it was a great vibe," Atkinson says.
Although all the socks are manufactured in South Korea, the design team is based in Milwaukie.
"They see what trends are out there; they go to huge fashion trade shows and look at boutiques in malls. We also sponsor a design contest to get ideas," Atkinson says. "We store all the products here and do our photo shoots here and hire local printers to produce our catalogue." Distribution, marketing and customer service also are based in the warehouse.
Although the company has an extensive inventory online, "90 percent of our sales is business to business," Atkinson says.
The socks and underwear are 75 percent cotton and 25 percent polyester/spandex, making them a lot more comfortable than many other socks.
As for her favorite socks, Atkinson prefers them simple, like "pink ones with red hearts and an arrow."