Chicago Business: Growing a Brand with Vintage Underground

Vintage Underground on Milwaukee Ave. in Chicago (photo: Joe Grez)

Vintage Underground on Milwaukee Ave. in Chicago (photo: Joe Grez)

Part 2 of 3 of a short series where small business meets new technology. Who benefits and how? Joup uses Vintage Underground as the small business and Reppio.com as the new technology.
Read Part 1 about Reppio.


Chicago, IL – It’s everywhere. It really is. Especially in the Western world and more so in the States. Branding. Time and time again we see a label, phrase or idea associated with countless amount of products and services immediately identifying them for better or for worse. (Wow, sounds like a marriage really.) But you know something? It works…well if done correctly. Research says so:


Read Montague, Director of the Human Neuro imaging Lab at Baylor College of Medicine, has now provided proof that branding plays with our brains. Last year he decided to repeat the Pepsi Challenge, but scan the activity of the brain at the same time. Using a non-invasive technique called functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), the scans reveal which parts of the brain are active in real time…When Montague gave a taste of an unnamed soda to his volunteers he found that more people preferred Pepsi. On the scan images the ventral putamen, one of the brain’s reward centers, had a response that was five times stronger than for people who preferred Coke…The shock came when Read repeated the experiment, this time telling volunteers which brand they were tasting. Nearly all the subjects then said they preferred the Coke. Moreover, different parts of the brain fired as well, especially the medial prefrontal cortex, an area associated with thinking and judging. Without a doubt the subjects were letting their experience of the Coke brand influence their preferences.”
The Science of Branding
by Edwin Colyer

 

The full article is a good read and quite informative giving plenty of research quotes itself. So marketers know it works…why else would someone get over 100,000 dollars a year to sift through data and make decisions about the future image of a Billion dollar business. Because it’s a Billion dollar business. Can we apply this to a smaller business? It’s of my thought that says, “Absolutely.” But the better question is how does one apply it? And I think Vintage Underground in Chicago has the right idea. Let’s take a look why.

It’s a Family Affair

The Pascoll Family, owners of Vintage Underground (Photo: Joe Grez)

The Pascoll Family, owners of Vintage Underground (Photo: Joe Grez)

The first Vintage Underground opened in 2007 on 1834 W. North Ave. in Wicker Park. Husband and wife team Carlos and Lilan Pascoll open the doors to their 3500 sq ft basement space to rave reviews and popular clientele. I have frequented the spot before and I assure you it is big…huge as a matter of fact. And the merchandise is quality, the Pascoll couple make sure of that in their selection process and purchases to stock the store. For a place that big, it’s quite impressive actually because sometimes there is a tendency to stock more junk then finds. The store I assure you bucks that trend and keeps merchandise of fine quality whether it was bought that way or skillfully refurbished.

Then the thought was to expand. Enter their son Pablo Pascoll who opened a second Vintage Underground just two blocks away on 1507 N. Milwaukee Ave earlier in 2013 under the same name. “It’s really about franchising. We wanted to keep the name but offer a more select inventory of jewelry and apparel that matches the Milwaukee strip of retail stores. More tourists are finding this location [close to the CTA Blue Line] and it’s ideal because if they don’t find something here, they can easily take a quick walk to North Avenue and see the big store,” says Pablo.

Location, Location, Location

Fine Merchandise of Vintage Underground (Photo: Joe Grez)

Fine Merchandise of Vintage Underground (Photo: Joe Grez)

The Pascolls hit the first nail of branding right on the head: Franchising. “I want a Vintage Underground Shop in Naperville, Schaumburg and Orland Park [suburbs of Chicago] as well, but one step at a time,” Pablo goes onto to say. With Vintage Underground surviving if not thriving in the financial collapse of the late ‘Naughts, it’s no wonder they want to push the name now. The second shop is indeed in a terrific pocket on Milwaukee Ave. but the competition is stiff. You’ll find at least 10 other first and second hand retail shops including America Apparel within a three block radius.

“That’s why we had to remodel the shop after the previous owners. To better match our look and feel of our merchandise,” Pablo concedes.

The second nail is struck: Consistency. The second shop does indeed offer the same quality and taste of products, but tailors to a crowd that may not necessarily be in-the-know about the Vintage Underground name. They carry a smaller inventory here, more focused on jewelry and women’s apparel. The space is long and wide to allow a good amount of people (20-30) to shop comfortably and large well lit changing rooms to trying on a prospective purchases. And again as Pablo points out, if a buyer finds nothing of their taste on Milwaukee, it’s an easy walk to find their look or treasure in the shop on North.

Put that Smile On

The thing that really struck about the Pascolls and their employees is that everyone is friendly and helpful, to even those most select of customers. The third and final nail of Branding: Relations. Keeping a customer confident in their purchase is key, and all the Uruguayan family aims to please. They take their time in explaining their finds, why they sell it and what will go well with them. As I’m sure anyone can realize a satisfied customer is generally a returning customer, and often times a returning customer with OTHER prospective customers. Win-win-win.


Vintage Underground and Reppio.com release party (photo: Joe Grez)

Vintage Underground and Reppio.com release party (photo: Joe Grez)

Vintage Underground celebrated their “re-opening” of the the second store this past Friday, June 21st 2013 to a great turnout. They coupled the event with the website launch of Reppio.com. Again another smart marketing and branding move. Joup’s Lisa Skiorki covered that end in the first part of this series here: Joup Review of Reppio.com. The remodeling opened and organized the space as aforementioned. They featured classic art by Chicago artist John Markese. Throw in a bit of food, drink and showcased merchandise and I found a number of happy customers wearing their purchases. And that can be branded: a vintage evening.

Joe Grez

Joe Grez

Joe Grzesik (JGrez) is still an artist developer trying to keep up with new technologies. Photography still has been one of his strongest passions. However, now his main focus has led him back to music where he teaches guitar, piano, saxophone and percussion privately. Music education can never be short changed.

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