The local Ann Arbor clothing store Bivouac is celebrating its 50th anniversary

Bivouac, a clothing and accessories store in Ann Arbor at 336 S. State St., is celebrating its 50th anniversary this October. For half a century, Bivouac has been supplying Ann Arbor with items ranging from camping supplies to high-end fashion.

The store started as a second-hand Army surplus store in Iowa in 1970 to serve student antiwar activists, said Bivouac founder Ed Davidson, moving to Ann Arbor in 1971.

“I started the shop as an army surplus store because the students wore that during the protest years,” Davidson said. “Everyone was protesting against Vietnam, and ironically, the garments of choice were army surplus items to protest the war.”

As trends have changed over the years, according to Davidson, Bivouac has adapted to the needs and desires of its predominantly student customers. Through buyers and trade magazines, Davidson and his staff were selling recycled jeans from goodwill to jeans priced in excess of $ 100, he said.

In addition to providing customers with clothing and camping gear, the bivouac has served as a place for intergenerational connections and community building since its inception, Davidson said.

“This September, while moving in, a family bought a winter coat for their daughter,” said Davidson. “You live in Dubai now and your daughter is coming to school here and I happened to help them. The father said: ‘I want you to know that you outfitted me for my first winter coat.’ “

Within the student demographic, Bivouac is a well-known destination for a variety of products, said Celene Philip, a junior public health junior who previously worked for The Michigan Daily.

“I’d visited Ann Arbor many times, my sister went to school here before me, and the Patagonia sign in the bivouac window was always a distinguishing feature,” said Philip. “I love having a shop on campus that sells high quality brands and eclectic items. I love bivouac because it seems to be ahead of the trends and is even ahead of them. “

AJ Davidson, Ed’s son, has taken over the business since his father partially retired. AJ Davidson said Bivouac not only promotes interpersonal connections, it also helps the Ann Arbor community.

“We give back to the community through a variety of charities – we donated 10% to the Huron River Watershed Council as part of our anniversary sale,” said AJ Davidson. “We always like to give something back to local groups and organizations.”

Looking ahead to the store’s future, AJ Davidson said he was confident that his small business would survive for years to come.

“I hope for another 50 years,” said AJ Davidson. “I want to develop myself further and continue to build the website. I want to make it easier for customers to come downtown and shop with us. I just want to keep serving the community that has supported us for 50 years. ”

The Daily Staff reporter Emily Blumberg can be reached at [email protected]

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