Ares Sportswear once operated out of an 800-square-foot, two-bedroom apartment in Columbus. Now, they've set up shop in an 180,000-square-foot building on Lacon Road.

Ares Sportswear once operated out of an 800-square-foot, two-bedroom apartment in Columbus. Now, they've set up shop in an 180,000-square-foot building on Lacon Road.

Co-owner Mike Leibrand recalled working out of what was once his apartment.

"The kitchen was the production area, the living room was the warehouse, the patio was shipping, the basement was the employee lounge, and the upstairs was the offices," Leibrand said.

Co-owner Mike Campbell said he started selling T-shirts in dormitories while he was a student at Ohio Wesleyan University, and he called on childhood friend Leibrand to do the same at Denison University. To improve customer service, they started printing the shirts themselves.

In addition to operating the business out of apartments, Ares was based for a time in Upper Arlington. Yet for most of its 18 years, Ares' headquarters has been in Hilliard. Leibrand said their "first real facility" was a 1,200-square-foot warehouse on Lyman Drive for two years.

Later, Ares moved to a building on Parkway Lane. An expansion and purchase increased the size of the site to 42,000 square feet, but by the end of 10 years, Leibrand said there was nowhere to park and no room left to grow.

Campbell and Leibrand said they were looking at facilities on Roberts Road, Lewis Center and Marble Cliff, but then found the 19-acre site at 3700 Lacon Road.

"My first instinct was this is too big," Leibrand said. "But this building has tenants, and they help considerably with the expenses. This gives us a chance to spread out, get things optimized so we can run efficiently, give us the parking, the facility that we need that we can grow."

The new location will also house Dyenomite Apparel in the coming months.

Ares' first day of business at the new facility was Feb. 20, just in time to start printing sportswear for the spring sports season. On a visit earlier this week, no sign had been installed and a showroom was being set up, but production was in full swing, with screen printing and embroidery on all manner of sportswear, even shirts for a badminton team.

"Every coach at the high-school or middle-school level in the United States should get a catalog from us," Leibrand said. They mail 500,000 catalogs, sell online, and advertise in coaching publications.

"We're not the biggest (company), but we're in the top four or five in that market," Leibrand said.

Campbell said Ares employs 100 people, and hopes to add 50 more in three years.

"We grew 14 percent last year and we grew all through the recession, and we've never had a down year in 18 years," Leibrand said.

Ares' co-owners said they were glad they were able to keep the company in Hilliard.

"I know at least one couple who moved close to here based off of our old location," Campbell said. "It was good for everybody that we stayed right here in Hilliard."

"It was very serendipitous that we were able to find this facility around the corner from our old facility," Leibrand said. "It worked out in so many ways for us, from not stressing our employees with a longer commute to just staying in this community that we feel we're starting build some ties in."