Find your active apparel and sportswear at Empire Sports in Oak Park

Find your active apparel and sportswear at Empire Sports in Oak Park

Empire Sports in Oak Park is a new one-stop shop for your fitness and sportswear needs.   

Not only can you find entrepreneur Michaelyn Roberson’s brand Noir Sportswear in store, but you can also find apparel for your favorite sports team, purchase school uniforms or get customized items, adding on school and individual names. 

“When I started out, the brand was just focused on women,” said Roberson, 35, a Detroit native who now lives in Oak Park, “and I wanted to create something that was more inclusive, especially when we talk about living healthier lifestyles.”

Roberson grew up in Detroit and attended Redford High School.

Making the decision to launch the store in Oak Park, where she recently moved, was easy for Roberson. She liked that the area is small, but has all of the necessities of a community, like a grocery store, an eye doctor, a few urgent cares and the Oak Park Public Safety Department. She knew that she wanted her business to be located near competitors and other businesses that she could benefit from.

So she placed her business next door to a Planet Fitness.

Now, Empire Sports is located at 13181 West Ten Mile Road in Oak Park, and Roberson said it is the only Black female-owned sporting goods store in the city. The Noir Sportswear brand includes hoodies, shorts and pants, which all provide four-way stretch and breathable material. But the Empire Sports umbrella carries something for the whole family. 

Roberson's brand has been around for a while. She created it after realizing there was a need in the community for workout clothing. She said when people wanted quality clothing, they had to go to large brands like LuluLemon or Nike. Roberson said many people have to take the step of going to the mall to purchase these brands, and she wanted them to be available locally. So she started the business in 2017, and residents have been purchasing workout clothing and can find those large brands at a cheaper rate at Empire Sports, she says.

Michaelyn Roberson, president and founder of Empire Sports, works in her sports apparel shop in Oak Park on Nov. 22, 2021. Roberson shows her signature brand, Noir, workout clothes that she herself created.

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She is also a Round 9 space awardee of Motor City Match, a financial assistance program through a partnership between the city of Detroit, the Detroit Economic Growth Corporation, the Economic Development Corporation of the city of Detroit and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

As a space awardee, Roberson was shown the ropes on how to acquire a space, negotiate leasing deals and receive technical services. Eventually, she wants to expand her business, and her next location will be in Detroit. 

There are also plans to host community engagement activities. Next year, she plans to host children's and adult sports teams in Oak Park. She has a 10-year-old daughter who loves football and basketball, and she has learned that sports not only brings people together, but it also provides stress relief, mental health and social connections. 

Michaelyn Roberson, president and founder of Empire Sports, works in her sports apparel shop in Oak Park on Nov. 22, 2021.

Shifting gears to sportswear 

Roberson started off with getting her Noir logo printed on T-shirts for men, but she noticed that they also wanted to be fashionable at the gym. Using her background in statistics, she did a lot of research about men’s apparel, and she found a way to have a more inclusive shopping experience by offering a range of activewear like shirts, hoodies and pants.

Within her local Empire Sports umbrella, you can find anything from lanyards to coats for all. You can also purchase customized letterman jackets and jerseys for teams and corporations. Roberson added school uniforms to the bunch because she wanted to ensure residents in the area could access the clothing for students year-round. 

Michaelyn Roberson, president and founder of Empire Sports, sells collegiate and professional sports apparel in her Oak Park shop on Nov. 22, 2021.

The store also carries licensed apparel and accessories for college and professional teams, and becoming a licensed vendor wasn’t easy. Roberson learned how to become a vendor by attending trade shows and conferences, where she gained the knowledge on how to become licensed. 

Many of her customers have been with her since the launch in 2017, when she set up pop-up shops on Detroit’s Avenue of Fashion at Livernois Avenue between 7 Mile and 8 Mile roads. 

“I was first introduced to the brand back in 2016,” said Renatta Evans, who's married to  Wayne County Executive Warren Evans. Roberson and Evans met at a pop-up shop during the first year of the brand's operation.

“As Michaelyn took my measurements for garments, I can remember her telling me her brand story and how she aspired to one day manufacture and produce her own products here in the USA," Renatta Evans said.

Roberson assists her customers by taking measurements to ensure that the activewear will fit correctly. The brand was just in its early stages before the official launch. 

 

“To watch the way this young woman moves is inspiring," Evans said. "I’ve seen her in action in both business and in the community. Michaelyn is a true visionary leader.” 


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