Students set up shop on Franklin

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From left: Henry Gargan, Ryan Cocca and Rohan Smith are opening the Thrill City store on Franklin Street this Saturday.

For UNC senior Ryan Cocca, it all started with the encouragement of a roommate and a T-shirt inspired by Kendall Marshall.

Cocca, co-owner of Thrill City, a clothing brand that draws design inspiration from the University community, now has a place for his dream to call home.

“It’s been a slow but constant progression to this story,” he said. “And we finally made it.”

Cocca and his business partners, junior Henry Gargan and senior Rohan Smith, will open a pop-up shop on Franklin Street Saturday.

Gargan said they wanted to create a space for pop culture to develop.

“We want to represent the culture of the entire area of Chapel Hill and Carrboro,” Gargan said.

Smith said the store will not only feature the Thrill City brand, but also music, art and other brands from the area.

“We aren’t just focused on selling shirts and making money,” Smith said. “We want to display the work of local photographers and designers and tie the area together.”

Cocca said the store will feature items from ALL LIES, a clothing brand from Raleigh, and FYSH, a clothing brand from Charlotte.

Smith said now was the perfect time to open a store.

“The space was open at a time where the brand can take it with the base it has, and now we can build it further with a solid location,” he said.

Cocca was able to secure the location at 422A W. Franklin St. with the help of the Chapel Hill Downtown Partnership.

“One day I just tweeted out asking supporters where they would like to see a shop and the partnership responded with two or three locations,” Cocca said.

Smith said he was initially hesitant to commit to the location because of its distance from campus.

“At first I was like, this is right at the end of Franklin Street, no one is going to come down here,” he said. “But even now, there is a ton of foot traffic and people popping in to see what we are all about.”

Bobby Funk, assistant director of the partnership, said the cost of a location depends on the value of the space and the quality of the area.

“It is a valued space to do business in the downtown area, so it does cost more,” Funk said.

Cocca said they were able to invest in the storefront because of the company’s online T-shirt sales and out-of-pocket investments by friends and themselves. With the storefront in place, Thrill City began to extend its brand into journalism.

The trio launched an online magazine on the Thrill City website in August through the business incubator 1789 Venture Lab, whose goal is to serve and educate UNC students and recent alumni who are starting and running their own businesses.

“There isn’t really an outlet where you can freely discuss some of the popular cultural aspects of living in this area but also in a semi-opinionated way,” Gargan said.

Director Aaron Scarboro said 1789 provides students with free office space and legal counsel.

He said the edginess of Thrill City will help bring in customers.

“They are a locally grown business, really hard workers, very unique in what they do,” Scarboro said.

Gargan said the growth of the website helped to solidify the brand.

“Instead of thinking of Thrill City as a shirt brand, you think about it as an umbrella that captures all of these Chapel Hill and Carrboro experiences,” he said.

Thrill City is hosting a release party for its fall collection Saturday at 8 p.m. at 1789, located at 173 E. Franklin St. The store will officially open its doors Saturday at midnight at the 422A W. Franklin St. location.

Though they are nearing their final years of study at the University, the trio said they will always be a part of Thrill City.

“I was born and raised in Chapel Hill so getting involved with Thrill City will make it hard to leave the area,” Gargan said. “If I had to get stuck anywhere it would definitely be Chapel Hill.”

“It’s a serendipitous type of reality,” Smith said.

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