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John Rich says he owes it all to Donald Trump. Rich, who won Trump’s “Celebrity Apprentice” in 2011, is much more than just a hit singer-songwriter and half of the country duo Big & Rich. He’s also an entrepreneur. And his latest venture is the launch of a lifestyle brand named Redneck Riviera.
“The phrase Redneck Riviera has been around since the Sixties and a generation of Americans has grown up with it,” Rich, a native of Amarillo, Tex., said of the Gulf Coast area on the Florida Panhandle. “They know what it is, where it is and what it feels like.”
So several years ago, Rich trademarked the name and began a “slow and methodical” process to line up partners and create products that would reflect the laid-back, sun-drenched lifestyle embodied by revelers on the beach during spring break.
The first foray is apparel. Rich teamed with Delta Apparel’s The Game subsidiary to create “basic, simple” pieces such as graphic Ts and headwear emblazoned with catchphrases such as Blue Water, White Sand and Red Neck. The merchandise quietly debuted online on March 1 but Rich is planning a “takeover,” blow-out event today in Panama City, Fla., to launch the brand.
While the merchandise will target the young party-going crowd on the Gulf Coast, Rich thinks it has more far-reaching appeal. “What encapsulates the brand is fun. It’s outgrown a geographical region and place,” he said. “Where is Margaritaville — anywhere where you can sip a piña colada and sit in the sun. This is the rowdy, rural version of that.”
The apparel will retail for $20 to $25 and will be offered online only until it’s opened up to mass, sporting goods and midtier retailers for spring 2015, said Doug Allen, director of merchandising and new business development at Delta Apparel. “Retailers want to see that it sells before they put it in,” he said.
Rich said during his time on “Celebrity Apprentice” he “learned the importance of knowing when you know something and when you don’t. I just knew what it needs to be.” To execute that vision, he teamed with Delta Apparel and Earthbound, a brand management and licensing company.
“Redneck Riviera embodies college football, spring break, country music, Southern hospitality,” said Milin Shah, the head of business development and licensing for Earthbound. Future opportunities include food and beverage, slot machines and even a Redneck Riviera Polaris ATV that will be auctioned off. “I will personally drive it to [the winner’s] house and throw a party in their backyard,” said Rich, who will serve as the ambassador for the brand. “I’ll be the guy barking about it,” he said. “It’s my lifestyle anyway.”
The party he’s hosting today in Florida will also mark the return for Big & Rich, a popular duo whose big hit a decade ago was “Save a Horse, Ride a Cowboy” but are now out with a new single, “Look at You.” He and partner “Big Kenny” Alphin took a break for three years while they started families. “We’re like the country-rock ’n’ roll version of the cicada,” Rich said. “Every seven to 10 years they come back. So, here we come again.”