Today as a part of our Behind The Seams with A.K. Rikk's series we’d like to introduce the Founder and Owner, Rick Gaby. Rick has made a powerful impression on all of our lives over the last thirty years. Personal Shopper Matt Sova said it best, “I’ve been with A.K. Rikk's for fourteen years and truly enjoy seeing Rick each and every time he comes to the store. I’ve always enjoyed his sense of humor, personality, and the way the store lights up when he is here.” A.K. Rikk's has always been more than a store, it is a family. For instance with the celebration of Rick’s sixtieth birthday all the clients, friends, and employees came together to give their sentiments in sixty cards. It is with great pleasure that we give you insight into Rick’s perspective as a business owner through this series of questions in our Behind The Seams with A.K. Rikk's interview.
What sparked the creation of A.K. RIKK’S?
My wife Barbara and I met while we were getting our MBAs and decided that we wanted to live in Grand Rapids after graduating. Shortly after we moved I got a good job, but within the first year the business was acquired by another company out of state so they moved all the offices. However, my wife and I wanted to stay in Grand Rapids so there I was, a young freshly minted MBA student with no job. In my efforts to find a job I went out looking for a new suit to wear on interviews and I found that Grand Rapids was really lacking even a decent men’s clothing store. I remember walking out of one store thinking to myself – this town needs a great men’s clothing store for professionals. I had no experience in retail or even a desire to ever be in retail, but I saw a need and knew the demand, which sparked an idea. An idea that I should start my own business… which was A.K. RIKK’S. That was thirty years ago.
How does it feel to achieve thirty years in business?
In the beginning, I was very much involved with going to New York City for Market, attending shows to learn from designers, and visiting stores that were known as the giants in the fashion industry. Thirty years later, to know that we’re a part of that mix and considered one of the top speciality stores in the country reminds me how far we have come. As any business owner will tell you, there are many times throughout the progression of a business where they didn’t think they would survive or didn’t know how they possibly could continue due to the economy or many other factors. But to see where A.K. Rikk’s started and how much we have grown, it’s a huge feeling of accomplishment…One that I’m very proud of and proud of everyone involved.
Do you wish upon your children to follow in your business savvy footsteps?
No, I don’t… and that is more philosophical. We have six children and we’re always told each of our children that we want them to find something they want to wake up in the morning excited about and love. As parents, we want to help them make those dreams come true. So if you have that philosophy you can not then wish in your mind that they would go in a particular direction. Barb and I believe the world is theirs to discover and we are here to support them. Now… if one of them so happened to have an interest in the business I would definitely be open to that and help foster their dreams.
Intuition or Logic?
Well, gut instinct is sometimes guided by experience… right? I would say early in my life, being the concentration of my MBA was finance, my decisions were based on logic. I’m left brained with a linear, logical, and analytical mindset but as I get older I make decisions based on logic and intuition guided by past experiences. I’ve always encouraged people to measure things because so much of how people think in process is based upon feelings…. and feelings can lie to you. I believe the more someone can back up what their gut feeling is with data, the better the decision will be.
Any desire to move back to Grand Rapids?
Barb and I just bought a condo in Grand Rapids and are very excited to spend more time here. We are in a different stage in our lives now. My kids are starting to be on their own and my fifth son will enter his final year in high school and we still have a teenager at home. That allows me to come to Grand Rapids more often and our condo is right downtown in the center of things. I love all the changes that have happened to this city - it has a nice energy.
That concludes this Behind The Seams with A.K. Rikk's interview.