Like many great ideas, Lone Star Roots in Frisco was born over garage talk and drinks.
Those impromptu brainstorming sessions eventually turned into a strong belief that Mark and Carrie Ermence had a really good idea, one that would eventually blossom into a business that was all about showcasing everything that is great and grand about the state of Texas.
For years, the Ermence’s dreamed about creating their own business. Mark, who still works in cyber security, and Carrie, who was a First Grade & Kindergarten teacher, eventually put those dreams into reality during the pandemic.
The Ermence’s like to say that their garage talk quickly turned to porch talk, basement talk, pool talk and eventually “why not us” talk.
How did they get here?
In 2006, their family decided to leave the cold winters of Chicago for Texas. Off and on throughout the years, they often talked about their desire to create a brand that was authentic and featured some of their favorite things: Community, friendship, family, Texas and whole lot of humor.
One afternoon in their backyard, The Ermence’s came up with an idea for a funny Texas T-shirt, and someone cleverly suggested that Lone Star Roots would be a great name for a business that could sell shirts like that.
They were serious enough about the idea to file a trademark. Unfortunately, they both got busy and shelved the idea. Then COVID arrived and everything changed.
“We’re sitting there in the middle of the pandemic with a whole lot of time on our hands and asked ourselves what we should do,” Mark explained. “It’s one of the silver linings to come out of the pandemic. We decided to look at status of the trademark we filed years earlier.”
It was 2020 and with the right team in place their trademark was secured. They began the process of building out their online storefront and and designing their first suite at Frisco Mercantile. After some trial and error they decided to take their products in March of 2021, to a few local festivals.
Mark tells a funny story of attending their first event in Celina and realizing on the way to it that they didn’t have a tent for their pop-up, so they stopped at Wal-Mart to buy one.
“We probably bought the wrong tent; it was just a mess trying to get set up, but we got through it and the interest was really high at that event,” he said. “We talked about the whole idea on how we got started and people started really connecting with us.”
Today, they operate an online store but also have a bigger and better Suite at the Frisco Mercantile.
Creating a Texas brand
Mark and Carrie don’t hide the fact that they aren’t from Texas. But as Mark puts it, they got here as fast they could and fell in love with the state instantly.
You can feel that passion for Texas when visiting with the couple, and it definitely shows up in the apparel they are selling.
“We wanted to create a brand that appeals to everyone,” Carrie said. “Whether that’s a Texas T-shirt, tumbler or hat, we want to make sure that the things we bring to the market have a connection to Texas in some way. They are printed in Texas, the design is done in Texas; we’re trying to touch Texas in some way with everything we do.”
They are also partnering with popular Texas brands and featuring them in their store. Examples of that include gifts from El Arroyo, the Austin restaurant that features funny sayings on a sign outside of their establishment. They also collaborate with South Austin Gallery bringing local and statewide coasters, cutting boards and other merchandise to market. They’re working with Go Texan, a Texas Department of Agriculture initiative dedicated to identifying and supporting Texas-based businesses. In Lone Star Roots, you’ll find Go Texan labels and banners.
“We are proud to bring Texas products to our customers,” Carrie said.
People love Texas
It was pretty clear to the Ermence’s that a store that celebrated the greatness of Texas would be a winner.
“Our clients tell us that they go to different places all over the world and as soon as you tell someone you are from Texas, you all of a sudden become friends,” Carrie said. “People love Texas. What’s not to love about it?”
And people seem to love T-shirts about Texas. Carrie said they are their hottest sellers, especially funny ones.
“We try to keep our shirts Texas themed with full of Texas pride, humor and Texas barbecue,” Carrie said. “People like T-shirts that are whimsical and fun. Those are the ones that sell well. We change them out based on the events we are going to; we try to tailor what we offer to the location and theme.”
Aprons and coasters are also popular with their client base. Last Christmas, they featured El Arroyo ornaments, El Arroyo mini books and drinkware, tea towels and magnets which went fast so much so that they carry many of these products year round, Carrie said.
A giving back spirit
In 2019, Carrie’s Dad passed away from heart disease. One of the first charities she and Mark decided to donate to after launching Lone Star Roots was the American Heart Association.
A nice touch on their logo is a heart that is nestled into the state of Texas, which is done to serve as a memory of Carrie’s Dad.
Another organization they support is Refresh Frisco, which provides children with full-size essential hygiene products.
“Giving back is really core to our company,” Mark said. “We are rooted in the community and every quarter we pick a charity to give back to.”
Carrie has become actively involved in the Frisco Chamber of Commerce and serves as one of their ambassadors. She is also an active member with the Frisco Women’s League and was quite surprised when presented New Member of the Year in 2021.
An exciting future
While it can be scary to start a new business, the Ermence’s are having the time of their life.
“We absolutely love what we are doing,” Carrie said. “We jump out of bed at 5 a.m. and spend many weekends out at pop-up events in DFW,, meeting people and supporting Texas. We’re excited to be there and that describes who we are as a company. This is a company that is here to stay, and we want to bring more people into our family.”
One way they hope to do that is through more partnerships, potentially with local Realtors.
“We’d love to establish more partnerships with local Realtors,” Mark said. “They are bringing people into our community and we would love to welcome them with our local, Texas brand.”
Mark said he sees opportunity down the line being able to have other locations around the state sell some of Lone Star Roots most popular merchandise.
“That’s the ultimate goal, wholesaling,” he said. “It would be a good way to scale our business to other parts of the state.”