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Mobile custom suit company expands, again, with downtown St. Pete store

Donald Carson’s custom suit business is trucking along, with considerable more growth on the horizon. Even so, he’s cognizant of a key business lesson: to not have expansion outpace customer service.

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  • | 5:00 a.m. April 15, 2024
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Donald Carlson worked in his family's dry cleaning business for nearly a decade.
Donald Carlson worked in his family's dry cleaning business for nearly a decade.
Photo by Mark Wemple
  • Manatee-Sarasota
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For Donald Carson, the clothing business is a natural fit, and now his Tweeds custom clothier brand, which started out of a single box truck in 2019 in Sarasota, is expanding to include a location in St.Pete. 

Tweeds began as a mobile custom suit business in that truck, a novelty business with a neat niche. He opened his first storefront, a 1,700-square-foot space in Sarasota on First Street, near City Hall, early last year. He opened a second space, a 650-square-foot location in Tampa in the Hyde Park neighborhood last October. And the downtown St. Pete location, a 1,500-square-foot location in the 800 block of Central Avenue, is expected to open in May. 

Carlson, born in Port Charlotte and raised in Sarasota, spent 2012-2019 helping the family dry cleaning business, Carlson Cleaners, build out their offerings to include pickup and delivery services. When it was time to launch his own career, his passion for suits and previous mobile experience culminated in Tweeds, which now has seven style consultants serving in three trucks making house calls around the southern part of the state.

“I’ve always enjoyed the concept of dressing up and ‘look good, feel good, do good’” Carlson says. “Personally, I always knew when I put on a suit, I felt better. I've had a passion for it, so it's always nice when you're in a business that you actually have a passion for. So that's why we did custom suits.”

The Tampa Tweeds location opened last October.
Photo by Kayla Avirett

Carlson’s personal collection includes many options, and his current favorite pick is double breasted, sky blue with white pinstripes and white buttons. The fabric is from Huddersfield, an English luxury textile company. It’s super 150 wool, so “it's super lightweight, really luxurious. It's probably my favorite suit right now.”

By opening storefronts in addition to operating the 16-foot box trucks, patrons can tailor their suit shopping experience to their personal preference and schedule constraints. Tweeds differentiates themselves from longer established corporate stores by offering a more community-driven encounter. 

“There are a lot of other suit companies that are big corporations in the area. And we’re trying to bring a cooler, unstuffy vibe to the industry,” Carlson says.

The St. Pete store will offer a full bar and have a basketball court built into the back end of the store, encouraging shoppers to stay awhile and build a rapport with their style consultants and other customers. “The biggest thing for us is having a great product, but giving a stellar customer experience as well, kind of like a barber. You build a relationship with a barber, (and) we want to be like your custom clothier to help build out your closet.” Each store also offers the space for businesses and organizations to rent for happy hours, meetings and other occasions.

Going from Sarasota to a completely new area without brand recognition, of course, has presented challenges. “Getting into a bigger market, we're trying to figure out how to get eyes on the business so that if someone needs a suit, they think of us and come to us,” Carlson says. “So that's always the biggest challenge, I think, with any business is letting people know you exist.” 

The Tampa Tweeds store is in the Hyde Park neighborhood.
Photo by Kayla Avirett

Carlson is optimistic about the prospect of expansion regardless, citing the culture of St. Pete as the main attraction for the store. “I just love St. Pete. It’s a super cool city. Its really cool vibes remind me of Sarasota, but on a bigger scale,” believing the city’s inhabitants will respond favorably to the hip new enterprise.

Carlson is unsure of next steps after the doors open in St.Pete, preferring to handle business one day at a time but open to the possibility of retail locations in other areas the Tweeds trucks have served such as Orlando, Naples and Miami. Ultimately, he is mission-focused on serving his current customer base. “We can help men and women feel good,” he says. “Whatever they're wearing [a suit] for, they can hold their head a little bit higher and feel really, really good about it.” 


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