Back in the late ‘90s, a few Philadelphia natives started a t-shirt line called Jinxed. Mike Supermodel, an employee at Rock N’ Roll plus on South Street, fell in love with the designs and carried them in the store. He eventually began doing sales for the line for a short period of time, and after staying in touch with the founders, he made an offer for the brand. While at first, they were not interested – “The response was, ‘I’d rather set all of these shirts on fire than sell to you!” – they managed to work it out. And now, having long since expanded past just t-shirts, Jinxed is a Best of Philly winner for vintage decor.
For the first few years, the staff worked out of a warehouse that Supermodel lived in, doing some national wholesaling to stores. At one point, they had about 15 stores selling the shirts, while he was traveling around the country selling at tattoo conventions.
It was on his travels – namely through San Francisco, New York, and Austin – that Supermodel saw a lot of “boutique”-type stores specializing in street art, top-notch graffiti, and graphic design all being made accessible through books, shirts, and prints. He became itchy to open his own store, and did so in 2004, a location just two blocks from Rock N’ Roll Plus.
Supermodel believes that he opened a year too early, thanks to credit card companies offering the red-carpet treatment to a new store owner. (He’s still paying it off.) That location on South Street remained open until the economy tanked in 2008, and closed thanks to several reasons, including “unnecessary” construction on South Street that eliminated street parking for about a year, the fear of spending money when everyone was losing it, and how the products they sold – luxury goods – were the last thing on anyone’s mind.
Shortly thereafter, Supermodel set up shop in the up-and-coming area of Northern Liberties. A few friends of his had opened a gallery called “The Toothless Cat” in a complex known as The Piazza and let him use one side of the space to set up the store, so long as his store kept regular business hours so that people could also come check out the artwork. Eventually, his friends lost interest in running the gallery, and Supermodel and his team soon wound up with the entire space that is still open at The Piazza today.
“I’m forever indebted and grateful to my friends who literally saved my ass when it looked like quitting time,” Supermodel said.
At that point, it was time to figure out how to fill all of that space.
Since Supermodel was a kid, he always had an interest in anything ‘vintage,’ scouring flea markets for old Hot Wheels and action figures when he was about ten years old. He didn’t want anything new, he wanted everything cool. When it came time to fill the space he owned at The Piazza, he started buying furniture and odds and ends at flea markets. The response he got was immediately positive, and there was no turning back from there.
The team got word around the end of 2012 that The Piazza was being sold, and to prepare for possibly not being renewed there, they partnered with a friend’s vintage store called “Tucker’s Digs” and opened across the street from their original 4th Street location in March of 2013. Again, the response they got was very positive.
Around July of 2013, Piazza management told them that they would not be renewed. Instead of consolidating, they decided that it was time to expand. Supermodel wanted a place close to Northern Liberties, a location that had been so good to them. Fortune smiled on them yet again and they found a location in Fishtown, where they remain today. Their landlord has a great vision for the Frankford Avenue corridor where the store is located, and signed them up long-term. On top of that, they were planning to keep their location at the Piazza until they were told to leave. Instead, Piazza management offered them an extension at a rate they can live with, so three locations it is!
According to Supermodel, Instagram is the glue that holds it all together. Since most of their items are one of a kind, they snap a picture and caption it with “Call to buy!” and it makes the item immediately accessible. They don’t really have a plan. They just try to react in a way that makes the most sense in whichever situation they’re in. Their Facebook and Twitter are synced to their Instagram feed, so it gets updated across the board. By far, Instagram generates the most response.
Over the next five years, Supermodel plans to continue expanding. They haven’t even broken the Fishtown store in yet, according to him. He and his team try to stay open to things. The next store might open next month, or it might open in a year and a half. If someone wants a Jinxed somewhere? They’ll listen, and if it makes sense, they’ll roll the dice. He’d also like to establish an e-commerce presence, but that will come when the team grows and there’s more manpower to work with.
Supermodel has a word of advice for anyone starting out: please try to imitate Jinxed as closely as possible. It will only motivate them to shuffle the deck again and change the hand they’re dealt.
“Also, it’s probably not in your best interest to open too close to us,” he said. “Ideas are bulletproof, windows aren’t.”