Southern Exchange Company apparel store takes over former Barefoot space

Southern Exchange opened on Aug. 1.

Blakeley Bartee

There’s a new Georgia Southern University apparel shop in town, and it’s called the Southern Exchange Company.

Located on Chandler Road next to Dingus Magee’s across the street from campus, the Southern Exchange occupies the same retail space that once held Barefoot Campus Outfitter, which closed last year after opening in 2014.

The store, an air-conditioned haven in the summer heat, was staffed Thursday by owner William Martin, who wore a GS “Beat Auburn” shirt he sells in the shop.

Martin is a father of two GS students. He worked for a collegiate apparel licensing company in Athens for several years until he opened his own business after he heard of Barefoot’s closing.

“My daughter’s a junior here, I have an incoming freshman and we found ourselves coming to [Barefoot] regularly for the last two or three years, and it just seemed like a great location, and it seemed like something still needed to be here,” Martin said. “My wife and I are empty-nesters this year, so we decided, why don’t we just move away from here and do this? So that’s what we did.”

Martin, whose former employer did apparel licensing for 90 different schools including GS, said the idea to start the business began as a joke with colleagues at the GS football game against Ole Miss in 2016. He joked he should open a store where Barefoot had just closed, and the idea grew from there.

With his background in collegiate apparel, Martin knew that mid-sized schools like GS often lack the same apparel choices when compared to bigger universities.

“I think that mid-sized schools like Georgia Southern kind of get looked past, whereas bigger schools like Alabama, Florida, Georgia, FSU, big-time colleges, get all the attention from the big guys, so there’s lots of retail, there’s lots of opportunities,” Martin said. “And it seemed to me that when Barefoot left here, there was still an opportunity to give something to this market that it didn’t currently have.”

Southern Exchange accepts Eagle Express and offers a variety of GS apparel and other items, and Martin hopes to keep up with trends and customer needs.

“One of our goals was to have tiered pricing for everything, to have something that anyone could come in and basically afford,” Martin said. “If you wanted a basic game day shirt, and you wanted to come in and grab something, have a cost-effective solution for that. So with that in mind, we’re trying to keep all of our prices down as low as we can.”

The team at Southern Exchange is working on plans to promote the new business, including passing out items on game days, hosting a grand opening event, boosting social media following and appearing at Boro Browse next Tuesday.

Martin said, “We wanted to be locally-relevant. We wanted to be focused on the school, the school’s tradition. Have a similar vibe to what Barefoot was doing – pretty casual, when you walk in, it doesn’t look like a sideline store… One of the things about t-shirts is, if you’re creative, you can do a lot of different things, offer a lot of different looks and rotate them in, so that’s what we’re going to do.”