Luke Davis makes clothing for heavy use.

Going for durability

Outfitting restaurant and other commercial workers is no easy task, given the abuse their clothing must withstand each day. Ditto for restaurant odds and ends such as menu holders that regularly pass through many sets of hands.

But Luke Davis and the other two co-founders of Hartford Denim Co. are up to the challenge. All three men have personally experienced frustration and disappointment with work clothing that does not hold up to advertised promises, so they decided to take matters into their own hands. Despite limited backgrounds in tailoring, the three started to make clothing for themselves and then friends and family, and eventually, commercial accounts. They established Hartford Denim Co., aka HARDENCO, in 2010.

Today, Hartford Denim Co. makes heavy-duty clothing and aprons for commercial use, and has expanded its product lines to also include menu holders, check presenters, coasters and other small leather goods.

“We work with denim, leather, canvas – pretty much any of the heavier stuff,” said Davis, 32.

The founders chose to locate their company in Hartford because they all grew up in the area, but they quickly faced a number of challenges, Davis said, such as hefty taxes and rent. Additionally, they’ve found many Connecticut consumers are not as quick to spend money on premium work clothing as say, those in New York. 

Hartford Denim Co., aka HARDENCO

Location: Hartford
Founded: 2010
Founders: Luke Davis, 32; David Marcoux, 34; Marshall Deming, 34
Makes: Heavy-duty clothing and aprons for commercial use
Long-term vision: To build a company to employ a small group of people and create products to be cherished for generations.

Luke Davis, co-founder, Hartford Denim Co.

Hartford Denim Co.’s aprons and restaurant products are selling particularly well, though, partly as a result of restaurant owners who are determined to source everything locally, from ingredients to the aprons their workers wear.

“We’re able to cater to their needs” with little local competition, Davis said, and Hartford Denim Co.’s small size is an ideal match for the many local restaurants placing only small orders.

Given the significant costs associated with founding the company, Davis and his partners have needed to hold jobs in addition to the hours they put in each week at Hartford Denim Co. Getting the business off the ground has been pretty expensive, Davis said.

“So the only way to do it is the long, slow, laborious way,” he said. “We’d love to grow our business, but we don’t want to grow to some crazy size where we will no longer be able to deliver quality.” ◾