Osaretin Ogbebor points to the T-shirt imprinted with an impressive and familiar building and says, “It’s the Hotel Carquinez, of course.”
Constructed in 1925, the building at 410 Harbour Way, once a center for civic and social life in Richmond, currently serves as senior housing. More recently, however, the structure is serving a new purpose: as inspiration for a really cool T-shirt. And not just any T-shirt.
On Thursday, the community celebrated a ribbon-cutting for Rich City Apparel, a new clothing line operating out of the relatively new Downtown Richmond Visitor Center at the BART Station, located at 1600 Nevin Plaza. The clothing shop isn’t just in the business of making fashionable attire, but also sharing the rich history and culture of Richmond.
“We want to tell the story of Richmond, what we know to be true about our city, how we see it, because we are Richmond residents,” said Ogbebor, a De Anza High graduate who co-owns Rich City Apparel along with fellow Richmond native Lejerr Collins. “We’re trying to tell the story of Richmond through apparel. It’s the art of our city inside of our clothing.”
Rich City Apparel is part of a long-running effort by the City of Richmond to promote all that is great about the city amid a heavily-trafficked transit station.
A few decades ago, Richmond became the first city to have a multi-modal transit station where BART, AC Transit and Amtrak all meet, according to Richmond Mayor Tom Butt. After that happened, a transit center was built to enable travelers to purchase their tickets, but “by the time it got built, it was obsolete,” the mayor said. Today, people use smartphones and Clipper cards to pay their fares.
When city officials learned that approximately 8,000 people use the station daily, they shifted gears on how to use the space. Last year, the Richmond Main Street Initiative (RMSI), the community-based nonprofit dedicated to revitalizing the city’s downtown corridor, moved into the space. Rich City Apparel’s ribbon cutting this week marks the next evolution for the space. Soon, the Richmond-themed shop won’t just have T-shirts, hats, and sweaters, but also books by Richmond authors, artwork by Richmond artists, and items currently sold at the Rosie the Riveter Visitor Center and popular Richmond-based businesses.
“This will be a place where we try to draw some of the 8,000 people who visit here a day…get them to leave a little money here, and send them away with something that will make them proud to be a Richmond resident if they live here,” Mayor Butt said. “And if they don’t live here, [we’ll] give them something to remember Richmond by.”
The Visitor Center will also share ample information about Richmond attractions, points of interest and can’t-miss local businesses.
Thursday’s ribbon-cutting was attended by a lengthy list of community leaders, including newly hired City Manager Laura Snideman, RMSI Executive Director Vivian Wong and representatives from the offices of Congressmember Mark DeSaulnier, Supervisor John Gioia and Assemblymember Buffy Wicks.
The new Richmond-themed shop is “reflective of a larger ecosystem of growth downtown,” said Robert Rogers, district coordinator for the Office of County Supervisor John Gioia and an RMSI board member. “This is the most vibrant the downtown has looked in decades.”
Ogbebor says it’s fitting that entrepreneurs and artists from Richmond, such as Rich City Apparel Creative Director DeAndre Tillis, have been tapped to share what’s best about their city. Their mission isn’t just to target outsiders, but to ensure young people coming up in the city know their hometown’s past, and have pride in it.
“We wanted to make it entertaining for the kids, give them insight on the history of Richmond, because I feel that’s neglected,” Tillis said. “And then we invite the rest of the world in to help give more insight on our city.”
And perhaps some of those 8,000 people boarding buses and trains every day will leave the city wearing their Hotel Carquinez T-shirts, effectively spreading that message beyond the city’s borders.
More photos from the event: