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Posted on Mon, Nov 21, 2011 : 5:58 a.m.

The Dirty Wolverine: University of Michigan grad launches 'pop-up' clothing store in Ann Arbor

By Lizzy Alfs

It wasn’t University of Michigan graduate Ashlee Arder’s plan to be back in Ann Arbor so soon after graduation.

In fact, right now she should be in Japan, where she landed a job teaching English. But her plan was thrown off course when she got there and three days later experienced a massive earthquake on March 11.


Ashlee Arder started a pop-up vintage clothing store, The Dirty Wolverine, in Ann Arbor in September. Her next pop-up is Nov. 22 at Van Boven Shoes.

Melanie Maxwell |

“I came back, and it was like, ‘Okay, now what?'" Arder recalled. “I had prepped myself to be out of the country for at least a year or two.”

But it didn’t take Arder long to get back on her feet. The day after returning to Ann Arbor, she landed a job at Footprints on South Main Street downtown.

Now, she’s launched her own retail business: a pop-up clothing store called The Dirty Wolverine.

The business model is simple, but it’s still fresh to the Ann Arbor community, Arder said.

She rents space from a local business for a night, and sets up a temporary retail store. For a few hours after the local business is closed, Arder sells vintage Michigan clothing.

“I go in and transform the space so it almost looks like a vintage, members-only cigar lounge,” Arder said. “I put a lot of memorabilia on the wall and spread antiques throughout the room.”

The Dirty Wolverine sells all Michigan-themed clothing, mostly items from the 80s or 90s. There are a lot of U-M items, but also Pistons, Red Wings, Lions, Tigers and other state gear.

“Everything is in some way related to Michigan,” Arder said. “There are a lot of sports related items, but not everything. It really is just about capitalizing off people’s Michigan pride and school spirit.”

Arder’s first pop-up site was at Footprints on Sept. 25, where she said the turnout was great.

Her next pop-up location: Van Boven Shoes in Nickels Arcade from 7-10 p.m. on Nov. 22.

Although Arder said the pop-up clothing trend isn’t new, there has been a reemergence of the idea, which she attributes to the economic climate.

“The concept is just something that right now is working for a lot of people because of the state of the economy,” she said. “People don’t have the money to do what businesses used to do.”

But the most important aspect of this type of business model, Arder said, is to get people to shop in eco-friendly ways.

“When we buy mass produced things from chain stores, the methods used to make them are often not sustainable. But buying a second-hand garment is something small that people can do.”

And Arder has a message about second-hand clothing: “You can really find things of quality, but a lot of people don’t have the patience. Hopefully, I can break down their stereotypes.”

Arder, who calls herself a “thrift junkie,” hopes to develop a strong business out of The Dirty Wolverine, eventually expanding the idea to other college campuses.

“I just want to get the word out,” she said. “I think it can become something that’s larger than me and Ann Arbor and the University of Michigan.”

Check out some of The Dirty Wolverine gear here.

Lizzy Alfs is a business reporter for Reach her at 734-623-2584 or email her at Follow her on Twitter at



Mon, Nov 21, 2011 : 7:13 p.m.

very proud of Ms. Arder for doing what she is passionate about...go blue!


Mon, Nov 21, 2011 : 7 p.m.

Makes me wish I still lived in Ann Arbor. Go blue for Michigan and Beat Ohio State!!


Mon, Nov 21, 2011 : 2:43 p.m.

Sounds like a great deal of work to set up and tear down. Get a mobile system in a small converted RV. Snap-On Tools still sells like that. Good luck and congratulations on originality.


Mon, Nov 21, 2011 : 6:53 p.m.

Somehow a mobile RV won't have quite the ambience she gets from using a brick and mortar store. I'm sure she has her set-up/break-down procedures worked out and will simplify them more if she does this 5 nights a week. This is a smart use of existing space and makes sense in the campus/downtown area where stores are closed by 9 and yet folks are still out roaming around. Good concept.


Mon, Nov 21, 2011 : 2:18 p.m.

Nice to see someone bounce back like that. New concepts are what's going to save our economy. The thrift stores are already doing a gangbusters business and they won't suffer from having a slice of their pie taken. Yes those of us who counted on getting our licensed product on the dirt cheap will have to pay a few bucks more but shouldn't we all help each other out? Personally I'm happy to say "Go Blue" and wear my off-brand tee shirt.


Mon, Nov 21, 2011 : 1:53 p.m.

Great concept & innovative thinking from a bright female UMich grad. I wish her well!! People who are critical of her venture or any entrepreneur for that matter are the same people who don't have the guts or balls to do anything themselves!! Good Luck to this young lady & way to go Wolverine!


Mon, Nov 21, 2011 : 5:10 p.m.

Why the overt mention of gender? Is it extraordinary for a female graduate to show innovative thinking?


Mon, Nov 21, 2011 : 2:05 p.m.

I don't think Ms. Arder has the latter, so she must have beaucoup guts! Go Blue!

Laura J

Mon, Nov 21, 2011 : 12:44 p.m.

Great, now I won't be able to find anything at the thrift stores for reasonable prices because she will have bought it all and marked it up. My kids are not happy...


Tue, Nov 22, 2011 : 2:40 a.m.

If you can't find anything good at any thrift store in Ann Arbor, you're doin it wrong.


Mon, Nov 21, 2011 : 8:50 p.m.

I must have missed the part in that article where the local thrift shops are all giving her first crack at their good stuff. I hope her business is a success!


Mon, Nov 21, 2011 : 4:11 p.m.

I've never paid $100 for second-hand clothing


Mon, Nov 21, 2011 : 2:41 p.m.

Still it is a bear market out there and she can still mark it up. I agree with Laura on this one.

Lizzy Alfs

Mon, Nov 21, 2011 : 2:19 p.m.

@Laura J - Just a note on the pricing since I didn't mention it - Ashlee said things are generally priced between $10-$100 dollars. Some of the bulkier jackets and things are around $75, but nothing is over $100