Big T Wear brings big and tall clothing to the QC

Anthony Jones and DeAnna Freeman-Jones are shown inside their new business, Big T Wear Big & Tall Clothing in downtown Rock Island.
Anthony Jones and DeAnna Freeman-Jones are shown inside their new business, Big T Wear Big & Tall Clothing in downtown Rock Island. CREDIT DAVE THOMPSON

A few years ago, Anthony Jones of Moline was looking to buy some new clothing and had to drive to Chicago because he couldn’t find any stores in the Quad Cities that sold clothing for big and tall men.

While in that Chicago store, he noticed he was not the only out-of-town customer. The store attracted visitors from hundreds of miles away who needed big and tall clothing.

That Chicagoland trip helped spur a business dream for him: to open a clothing shop in the Quad Cities specializing in big and tall sizes. That dream became a reality on Friday, May 6, when Big T Wear Big & Tall Clothing opened for business at 1700 2nd Ave. in downtown Rock Island. 

The store is located in the Shoppes on 2nd storefront that is home to several independent retail business suites. Big T occupies two suites that span just under 1,000 square feet of space.

Mr. Jones and his girlfriend (and now business partner), DeAnna Freeman-Foster, opened the business after years in the planning stages and in hopes of keeping other shoppers from making the long drive to Chicago.

“But people will drive here if they know you have their size,” said Ms. Freeman-Foster.

So far, customers have been making the trek to downtown Rock Island for their clothing needs.

The new business “offers stylish, casual clothing for the bigger and taller guys that have trouble finding items that fit in regular department stores; from distressed denims, to basic blue jeans,” Big T says on its Facebook page.

Big T offers clothing 3X and up, T-shirts up to 14X and pants up to waist size of 70 inches.

But on opening day, some of the big sellers were baseball-style hats called “Christian hats.” Those hats include inspirational phrases such as “PUSH” (Pray Until Something Happens) and “Jesus” on the back of the hats. There is also a Harley-Davidson inspired hat with the words “I Love Jesus” on the front. Those hats sold out fast.

“It was mainly young people buying the hats,” said Mr. Jones.

Other big-selling items include Makobi casual clothing items.

“We started off small. … This is really a very nichey market,” said Ms. Freeman-Foster.

Currently, Big T is just open during the weekends. In addition to running the new business, the couple keeps busy with other jobs. Mr. Jones works at Arconic Davenport Works. Mr. Freeman-Foster works for Kinseth Hospitality Companies.

Also, they use the weekdays to renew and restock Big T for the weekend opening dates.

“Each week, there will be something new here,” said Ms. Freeman-Foster.

One of those new items will be a bit of clothing for women. They plan to offer a sleep shirt for women. However, there are no plans to further expand into women’s clothing. Big T plans to stick to mainly men’s casual wear.

Ms. Freeman-Foster added that the new business is beginning to find customers because many people don’t want to order clothes online. Sometimes, they discover the clothing from online businesses doesn’t fit or simply isn’t their style when it arrives.

At Big T, customers get a chance to try on clothing before they take it home.

Many of the building features at Big T are handmade. Mr. Jones crafted everything from the dressing rooms to the front desk. “I always wanted to be a carpenter when I was a kid,” he added.

Big T got help from the Development Association of Rock Island (DARI) organization, which assists small businesses in starting up and growing.

“We are so excited to have Big T Wear open their first store in The Shoppes on 2nd in downtown Rock Island,” said Elizabeth Tallman, vice president of developmental services for DARI. “The Shoppes on 2nd is designed to take start-up retailers or home-based retailers such as Big T Wear and give them the resources to prosper in a storefront retail space.

“We also find that by clustering start-up retail, cross promotional opportunities become available to draw customers to a unique shopping experience all located under one roof,” Ms. Tallman said. “At DARI, our goal is to set up every business to succeed and Big T Wear is another example of what we can do when we work in partnership to help move Rock Island forward.”

Jack Cullen, director of Downtown Rock Island, an initiative of the Quad Cities Chamber of Commerce and the City of Rock Island, added that it’s great to see another business in the downtown area.

“We’re super excited to welcome Big T to Downtown Rock Island. Not only are they filling a storefront, but they’re also introducing a new niche enterprise to our downtown business district,” he said. 

Big T Wear Big & Tall Clothing is open noon to 5 p.m. on Thursdays;  11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. The store also is open by appointment. It can be reached at (218) 393-0542. 

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