Flint, MI— SŌL Collaborative, a store that will offer art, sneakers, and streetwear, will be hosting its second pop-up event July 9 during Flint’s monthly art walk.

“A lot of local designers, they don’t have anywhere to sell their clothes. And that was one of the things that bugged us growing up,” Lee Grant Allen Jr., co-founder of SŌL Collaborative said, gesturing to his best friend and co-founder Antonio Forte II. “So we were like, ‘Hey, if we ever get a store, this is gonna be one of the first things that we do: give a lot of people a platform to sell.’”

Allen stood beside Forte in the pair’s freshly painted space in Buckham Alley. The two grew up together in Flint, and they say they have been planning their store concept for over a decade—which is why even after a move for his job, Forte didn’t give up on the duo’s dream.

“I just relocated to California six months ago,” said Forte, “but this is where my family is, my heart is. Everything I’ve learned, I’ve learned from this city or this community.”

Forte and Allen said that after hosting summer pop-ups, they plan to use their space as a business accelerator for the local brands they bring in. 

While Forte has a background in business and sales, and Allen has worked in retail and holds a degree in business administration, the pair said they still expect to be learning alongside the entrepreneurs who join them at SŌL Collaborative.

“Look, do we have all the answers about being an entrepreneur or running the store?” Allen said, laughing. “No. So we are taking them on this experience with us.”

The outside of SŌL Collaborative located in Buckham Alley in downtown Flint on July 6, 2021. (KT Kanazawich | Flint Beat)

Allen and Forte also brought on Alex Kadie, co-owner of Eight Ten Nail Bar, as a community liaison and public relations manager. Allen calls Kadie an “asset to the team” since he brings with him an established business savvy in downtown Flint.

The co-owners said they will likely host another pop-up ahead of SŌL Collaborative’s anticipated September opening. They plan to build out more of the store with each event, so the Flint community can feel like part of their opening process. Right now, the space has black walls, no shelving, and colorful artwork by local artists Errin Whitaker and Pauly Everett near the entrance.

Once they open officially, Forte and Allen said they hope to rotate a few local brands through their space at a time, creating a cohort of artists and designers that can sell their artwork or products while training in financial literacy, retail, and business management. 

Allen said that regardless of whether people visit the store to shop, he hopes everyone will see the space as the collaborative, creative environment he and Forte wished they had growing up. 

“We want to be the glue for artists, designers, musicians,” Allen said. “We want people to come in and talk. We want to create that community.”

SŌL Collaborative’s second pop-up, entitled V2, is tomorrow from 6 PM – 9 PM in Buckham Alley.

Kate Stockrahm

Kate is Flint Beat's business and nonprofit reporter. She joins the team as a corps member of Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms to report on under-covered...

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