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Bend Creating Colorful, Local Athletic Wear

Nancy Alkire Nancy Alkire Bend Creating Colorful, Local Athletic WearFind Bend's locally made and inspired athletic wear at The Shoppes in Lane Avenue. Photo by Nancy Alkire.
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“We love Columbus — it is so full of people into fitness, — and it is so fun to design athletic wear for a vibrant local scene,” says Laura Heller, co-owner of Bend.

If you don’t know Bend yet, you probably have seen their bright 614 leggings, 614 and “Ohio Love” tank tops, or this year’s Columbus marathon pants done with Second Sole. A visit to the Bend store on Lane Avenue is a treat for local athletes or those shopping for them.

Bend's Columbus Marathon design.

The Columbus Marathon design done in partnership with Second Sole.

Bend started with Laura Heller moving on from a position at a specialty sportswear company that designed and manufactured wrestling clothes.

“It was a good job where I learned a lot, but I wanted to be more creative and have some variety,” she says. “And we wanted something of our own, too.”

So with her spouse, Adam Heller, who also knows a lot about sports as he represents professional athletes, they started Bend just over 2 years ago.

“At first it was going to be just doing shows and web sales only,” says Adam. “But so many people asked us about a store, we thought: why not give it a try?”

The Hellers opened Bend in the Lane Avenue shopping center in November, 2014. Building on lessons learned from an earlier store in Dayton, the Bend in Columbus was an almost immediate success.

“We opened on Black Friday, and were very pleasantly surprised how much business we have had.”

Bend has a variety of athletic wear. “When we started we wanted a very eco-friendly fabric, so we have a clothing line made with bamboo.” A sustainable crop that requires little to flourish, bamboo has become a favorite eco-fabric, and bamboo can be made with antimicrobial properties and in many lovely colors.

“It is a big challenge to do athletic wear,” says Laura, “not only does it have to look good as fashion, but it has to be comfortable and perform well, too.”

Adam commented that they welcome input and learn a lot from their customers.

“We have to be flexible – that’s our motto: Bend don’t break – and we are driven by our community.” The 614 pants were designed from photos taken locally, “They were really created by the people of Columbus.”

“When we designed the 614 pants,” said Laura, “they were so very bright! I was really worried if anyone at all would buy them, but people have gone crazy about them.”

The Bend team, which includes interns from CCAD and Columbus State, has also worked with noted yoga photographer Robert Sturman to design leggings printed with colorful prayer flags as well as striking yoga poses.

“It is art on a new canvas,” said Adam Heller.

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Bend designs and makes limited runs for special projects, too. For Simply Vague, Bend did leggings for a pet adoption event.

“We used photos of rescued dogs and cats that people submitted,” says Adam.

They also work with Shelley Meyer, Urban Meyer’s wife, to make spinning wear, and a portion of proceeds from those sales go to the Meyer’s cancer research fund.

Many of the items at Bend have a ‘Made in the USA’ label. A local, Columbus T-shirt printer does their 614 and Ohio logo tank tops. This year they were very happy to find an Ohio manufacturer in the Dayton area to do their boldly printed leggings.

Bend also supports local fitness activities by hosting yoga programs in the store and having booths at events like the Columbus Marathon. Another big, fun project for Bend is participating in the BuckeyeThon Fashion Show on November 3, 2015 to raise money for cancer programs at Nationwide Children’s Hospital.

“Designing is so fun,” says Laura, “We enjoy seeing our products around town – when we saw our 614 leggings flash by in the Boston Marathon that was a big wow.”

Visit Bend on Lane Avenue and buy some of their Ohio-themed tanks for your favorite athlete, especially if it’s yourself.

Bend is located inside the The Shoppes on Lane Ave, 1595 Lane Ave, Upper Arlington OH 43221, 614-817-1100, Hours are Monday through Saturday, 10am-9pm and Sunday 12 to 5pm. For more information, visit Bendactive.com.

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