6 years in the making—local business’ partnership with Ralph Lauren uplifts Birmingham

Alchemy, an upscale men’s store in Five Points South, recently partnered with Ralph Lauren after six years in the making. Photo via Ace Graham

We know Five Points South for its nightlife and award-winning restaurants. But when Ace Graham moved Alchemy to the neighborhood in 2018, it shook up the whole scene. The upscale men’s store’s most recent partnership with Ralph Lauren led me to learn more about the local business’ efforts to support Birmingham’s community and understand where our dollars really go when we buy local. (Spoiler: it’s good places!)

Nothing else like it

Visit Alchemy at 1923 11th Ave S, Birmingham, AL 35205. Photo via Ace Graham

Alchemy has tier-one partnerships with brands like Nike, Reebok and now Ralph Lauren. Despite what my credit card statement might lead you to believe, I’m not super familiar with retail terminology.

A tier-one partnership allows Alchemy to carry in-season, fresh off-the-runway-styles of these brands. So, carrying Ralph Lauren in this capacity is a big deal for a couple of reasons.

First, there is no other in-season, top-tier product for Ralph Lauren distribution in Alabama. Alchemy now represents Ralph Lauren for the state, because there isn’t another retailer that sells the brand in the same capacity.

Now you’ll understand why these types of partnerships take so long. While Ace worked to get Reebok for around three years, Ralph Lauren took close to six. It’s a long process, but worth it—here’s why.

More than a business transaction

Elle, a member of the Alchemy team, is an important part of the Ralph Lauren campaign and its upcoming projects. Photo via Ace Graham

If you’ve shopped at Alchemy (or read the first couple sentences of the article,) you know it carries top-of-the-line brands. Selling these products gives the store’s team resources to implement incredible work that positively impacts Birmingham.

“To be able to put in-season product from all of these brands inside of Birmingham, Alabama, it puts us on the map as a city. But it also allows us as a company to lean on our brand partners to support our initiatives in our community with our community organizations.”

Ace Graham, Owner, Alchemy

For example, Alchemy works with the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute (BCRI) on a special project to create capsule collections, otherwise known as merchandise, using inspiration from exhibits.

The proceeds from the sale of those products go toward the BCRI. Alchemy utilizes its brand partnerships to magnify the collection or assist with production.

“We go into their exhibit, and….translate that to some type of product that a person can buy. And we get our brand partners to support us in that effort as well. Maybe they do the production on it. Maybe they use their marketing platforms to bring attention to it.”

Ace Graham

Integral to their mission

That’s only one example of how your dollars are spent when you shop local. Alchemy’s mission centers around using its store as a vessel to give back.

“It’s not really even about, ‘How many shoes can we sell?’ or ‘How many shirts can we sell?’

It’s more about ‘How can we get our brand partners with resources to be able to affect change in our community and… help us help our street neighbors?’ How can we help put shoes on people and how can we put clothes on their back to help them get off of the streets in the situation they’re in. So bridging these gaps is really what it’s about for us.”

Ace Graham

These are the types of conversations Ace approaches brands with when they sit down together to discuss a partnership. The relationship between brand and local business in Alchemy’s case is symbiotic.

A mutually beneficial partnership

A long-awaited partnership has proven to be beneficial for both parties. A brand, such as Ralph Lauren, further solidifies Alchemy as a premium retailer.

Alchemy, in turn, provides a fresh take on how the Birmingham community views the Ralph Lauren brand through its carefully curated product selections. Ralph Lauren’s commitment to supporting Alchemy and its community initiatives makes way for unique opportunities in the city of Birmingham.

“My conversation is yes, we’re going to have a transactional relationship when it comes to exchanging goods and dollars. But what we’re looking for is to align with people that are going to help us with sustainability. And they’re going to help us with development and help us with supporting initiatives that we believe we can help out within our community.”

Ace Graham

It’s this type of relationship that allowed Alchemy to give away 50 pairs of shoes to people without housing during the holidays. Or, when the pandemic hit, gave them the ability to provide free KN95 masks through a brand partnership.

“I’m not really interested in talking about selling products and goods. That does itself. We’re more interested in how those opportunities are going to allow us to touch other people and inspire them to get on board with what we’re trying to do within our community.”

Ace Graham
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Next time you go in for a pair of shoes, you might come out with a lot more

Alchemy’s business model strives to put good back into the Birmingham community. Photo via Ace Graham

On the business’ wall there’s a definition. It’s not the traditional definition for alchemy in the sense of transitioning metal to gold—it’s about transforming lives. Through community projects and creating a safe space in the store, Alchemy aims to get people from all different backgrounds to have a conversation.

“We’re committed to doing our service. That’s what Alchemy is about. It’s the true definition of Alchemy for us.

Ace Graham

Support local and shop Alchemy

  • Address: 1923 11th Ave S, Birmingham, AL 35205
  • Hours: Tues-Thurs 11AM-7PM | Fri 11AM-10PM | Sat 10AM-10PM | Sun 10AM-7PM | Mon. Closed
  • Website | Instagram | Facebook

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Irene Richardson
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