Fashion and cents inspire Valley men

Own 2 vintage clothing shops

Staff photo / Daniel Newman David Meadows, left, and Mike Jones are surrounded by piles of clothing at their Vintage of 330’s new location in Boardman. The store’s orginal location in the Wedgewood Plaza in Austintown opened in 2020.

BOARDMAN — Two young men from the Valley have profited from self-expression and the vintage clothing trend to grow their business dreams since 2020.

Michael Jones and David Meadows came up with the idea of selling used clothing at market price shortly after Meadows finished high school. They now own two Vintage of 330 clothing resale stores — one at 4400 Market St. in Boardman, and the other in Wedgewood Plaza in Austintown.

Moving from LaBrae to Austintown and then the Niles school district, Meadows, 22, said that during his upbringing, he faced difficulty to fit in with fashion trends. His family’s lack of finances influenced him to go out and thrift for the things he liked and could afford.

Jones, 24, who went to Warren City Schools his whole life, said his older brother, who died 10 years ago, started to impact his fashion sense at the age of 14.

“My older brother was always into fashion,” Jones said. “He was 16 when he passed, but before he passed away, me, my younger brother Marlon, and him would always compete and trade clothing. I’ve always cared about fashion. Whether I was going to school or Skate Zone back then, if I wasn’t dressed well enough to wear what I wanted to wear, I wasn’t going.”

“I had an extreme interest in fashion,” Meadows said. “I felt it was very easy for my peers to see it too. Even as a young kid, I would always wear stuff that would make my friends say that I was the friend that could kind of wear anything. And I’ve always wanted to dress nice because when I was real, real young, my family wasn’t as fortunate to be able to put me in whatever I wanted. So, I would always thrive with what I had, to look the best I could.”

While attending Austintown Middle School, Meadows said he remembers it being a “wealthier, more well to do” place.

“I came from a school that didn’t have a dress code,” he said. “When I went to Austintown, it was like I really had to try to keep up. So, I started going to thrift stores real young and finding things. Then I would come to school and people would ask me where I got my clothes.”

Meadows said he was, at first, nervous to admit to some of his wealthier friends that he was a thrifter, shopping at Goodwills around town. But they eventually would say, “‘No, this is sweet.'”

With almost no exact answer for the age he gravitated most toward fashion, Meadows said, “there were a couple of key points in my life.”

Meadows said his dad wanted him to play sports, which made him like basketball shoes.

“Then there was a mix of me skateboarding,” he continued, “And today’s fashion predominantly revolves around skateboarding and most people don’t even know it. The chunky shoes, baggy pants, and even more of the hyper brands like Supreme, Palace and Bape (A Bathing Ape), a lot of that was the stuff that the skaters were wearing.”

Though Meadows spent significant time skateboarding, after shoes by famous skaters Rob Dyrdek and Ryan Scheckler, and Nike sports shoes from the likes of Kevin Durant and LeBron James, he said his biggest influence came from his father.

“My dad had me at 16 years old,” Meadows said. “So, I really got a lot of the ’90s style from him. He would tell me all about Nautica and Tommy (Hillfiger), and Gemco Jeans — orange tab Levi’s. And I got a lot of music influence from him, whether it was Nirvana, or the Chili Peppers, or anything in that realm. I got back and looked at photos of my dad, and he’s in a pair of Carhartt shorts, standing in Converse ‘1 Stars’ and a Nirvana shirt. So that influence is huge on where fashion really started for me.”

“I really kept doing it once I got validated for it by my peers,” said Meadows, who is best friends with Jones’ younger brother. “Once I got to (Niles-McKinely) freshman year, I just kept thrifting. It would get to the point where even if I didn’t find something that fit me, I just kept it.”

The two met, Jones said, because Meadows always would trade shoes and clothes with their mutual friends.

“Eventually, we all kind of came together and realized that we loved clothing,” Jones said.

“We love vintage; we love to thrift. And by this time, I’ve got about 5,000 pieces of clothing just in my personal collection. So, by the time me and David were close, and I was living on campus, we came up with the idea that we should start doing a pop-up at the house. And that’s sort of how everything evolved for us. We got put on the news, and more kids found out about us.”

In 2020, Jones said he began to see fewer young people shopping at local malls, and that Youngstown did not have a store like theirs yet.

Soon after being introduced to Jones, Meadows pitched the idea of using Jones’ formerly rented house on Youngstown State University’s campus to set up racks and showcase clothing for sale during weekly parties.

“We did it and just absolutely cashed out,” the pair said. Jones said one of their main points of profiting was to make sure things were reasonably priced for the younger crowd of customers.

Stores that embrace the same culture of clothing, in bigger cities, most of the time, charge higher than Vintage of 330, Jones and Meadows said, “Something we’ll always keep is making sure things are affordable for everyone.”

Jones admitted that their prices have gone up a slightly but only because of their expenses rising.

“Whether it’s rent, we have two rents now, or even just buying the clothing now, because vintage has gotten more popular. And after COVID, we lost a lot of the markets we went to to get our stuff. We still have to survive, but we still beat big city prices by at least 50%,” Jones said.

“Vintage” wear has grown huge in popularity, in young peoples’ fashion space, over the past 10 years. And as Meadows confirmed, it may be reaching a point where “grailed” clothing, or “few-of-a-kind” pieces are losing some value in uniqueness.

“I think we’re definitely getting to an awkward point in fashion,” Meadows said. “There’s always eras of certain things. And being in Ohio, we’re two steps behind where fashion really is. When something starts in New York City and Los Angeles, it’s like we catch on to that style a year later, if we’re not really in tune. Let’s say in LA, six months ago, the baggier style started to come back, and just now, our customer base is sort of catching up to that. And they’re like, ‘well, where are the Carhartt double knees, or where are the carpenter pants?’ But with Grailed (the website), it gives people an outlet to go get the things they want. And when they want it, they’ll pay whatever for it.”

From Meadows’ perspective, many customers who come into the stores believe that he and Jones scour all local thrift stores to find their stock.

“We don’t want to take all of the credit for it in this area,” Meadows said. “But we did give a good push to make it way harder to go to thrift stores and find stock in the Valley. Once we opened a store, and were the only store within an hour radius, everyone looked to going to thrifts. So, going to the thrifts out here got a little bit saturated. But if you keep to it, you can still find good stuff.”

Anything over 20 years old is now becoming vintage, the store owners said.

“But there is a big stepping stone,” Meadows added. “True vintage would be ’20s, ’30s, ’40s, ’50s, ’60s, and anything above would be regular vintage. It only hones the name ‘true vintage’ if something is starting to be 60 to 70 years old. That stuff is really hard to find. But with the area we’re in, it’s such a niche market. If I get a 50-year-old pair of bell bottoms, there’s not many people in the area that express that side of their fashion taste, or to go to downtown Youngstown in them. They might be scared that someone would look at them differently. But if you live in California or New York, it’s something you’ll see everyday. You wouldn’t know what to expect.”

The two young business owners began bargaining with clients and buying wholesale to stock their racks.

“Last week I spent around $2,000 on clothes,” Meadows said. “Basically, I was able to get a $10 shirt that I could sell for $20 at a 50% margin. The more you spend, the better price you’re going to get with a wholesaler. The problem is finding a wholesaler that will stay loyal to you and be able to supply your store with stock.”

Vintage of 330 opening a second store in Boardman has allowed them to increase their profits and welcome a wider range of buyers beyond Austintown. But with a second location, the difficulty of getting “good” supply has risen.

While he stays modest at the suggestion that he is an “old soul,” Meadows said one of his favorite things to do outside of collecting vintage clothing is collecting old-school cars, and working on them, with his grandfather.

“Even simple things like changing brakes,” Meadows said. “I think one of the best feelings is learning from him. Spending time doing the things that, I guess, people my age aren’t really doing anymore.”

As they plan to continue growing the business to its fullest potential, they do have aspirations about opening a store in another city.

“I guess the goal for me and Mike is really just to make some passive income,” Meadows said. “Me and him have talked about maybe getting a driving range, or a laundromat, or car wash, but as of right now it’s like we’re not even at work. Like they say, when you do your dream job, it doesn’t even feel like work. So with passive income, it makes things even easier.”

Jones and Meadows love the idea of staying central, but moving is certainly a possibility. The pair has discussed moving, even from state to state, and they joke about the question: “If we were to move, would we still be Vintage of 330, or would we adopt another area code?”

While Jones and Meadows say they would love to work with Youngstown State University and their fashion program, they’ve begun connecting and trying not to be “quiet” about what they do.

“Austintown is the original for us, if we open up 10 stores, I want there to always be that original thing that we have about us,” Jones said. “And number one is going to be our name and our location. I think what got us this far is just staying original and not changing on people. I’m not saying I don’t think change is good, but if we kept the name Vintage of 330 in any city we go to, it’s going to stay different. And if you go to a store in Chicago and see a Vintage of 330, you’re going to know who it is.”

To suggest a Saturday profile, contact Features Editor Burton Cole at bcole@tribtoday.com or Metro Editor Marly Reichert at mreichert@tribtoday.com.


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