CHICAGO — Chicagoans have always been proud of their city. But there may be no one prouder than two budding businessmen who have turned their bragging rights of growing up on the city’s South Side into a thriving business. It supports the very community the men love.
Joe Wodark and Mike Vaickus are high school friends who came up with the idea for their online apparel company, Grit Clothing, while sitting around chatting on New Year’s Day 2018.
The men said it was important to have a brand that would reflect the South Side’s positive attributes, values and hard work.
“We feel that the South Side has some positive core values that are desperately underrepresented,” Wodark said. “It’s a family neighborhood feel.”
Wodark said the name Grit comes from the strength and resilience displayed in South Side communities when faced with adversity.
“We felt like that’s the mindset of the typical South Side Chicagoan,” Wodark said. “It's: Listen, it’s not an easy place to grow up. It’s not an easy place to live. But everybody who lives there is proud of where they are from, and they go on to achieve greatness. It’s that mindset — that grit mindset.”
“Everybody is very proud of where they came from, what block they grew up on, what park they hung out at,” Vaickus said. “It’s kind of like a badge of honor.”
Wodark and Vaickus said from the beginning, they intended for Grit Clothing to be more than just a business.
“We knew giving back and philanthropy would be a key part of our brand,” Wodark said.
So far, Grit Clothing has donated money and products to about 15 local charities. The first donation went to the Chicago Police Memorial Foundation in honor of Cmdr. Paul Bauer. Bauer was fatally shot in February 2018 while pursuing a suspect in downtown Chicago. He was a family friend of Wodark’s.
Most recently, the apparel company donated to the same fund in honor of Officer John Rivera, who was killed in River North in March. He was off-duty at the time.
Wodark and Vaickus choose their charitable donations based on customer feedback. Visit their website at gritclothingco.com.
Joe Wodark and Mike Vaickus are two of Chicago’s very own.