Chet Winnicki had decided he was going to do something very different long before last April, when he parted ways with his job in the health insurance industry. With the fresh career change, Chet began tapping interests and passions that had been building for years--like connecting to his childhood nostalgia through lifestyle apparel. This drive sparked him to turn his ideas into a reality for people like himself, whose unique taste isn’t easily found on the market. He began researching the apparel industry and building a team through Domi Station and personal connections. By the end of summer, Chet had charted a course for his next venture: Local Vyntage.
Although the apparel industry drastically differs from healthcare, Chet relates his previous job to his new one in many ways. “My past jobs were always focused on consumers. The last company I worked for had clients who were very large employers like Walmart and IBM; It was my job to build great healthcare decision tools for their employees,” he said. “For the most part, I had already been managing products end-to-end, sort of as a business-within-a-business, so I felt confident in my ability to transfer my experience and run my own business. The big change was stepping out from under the security of a corporate roof.” His knowledge and experience from his previous job, combined with his entrepreneurial passion, provided the fuel needed to pursue success in a completely different industry without depending on a “safer” corporate business salary and benefits. Also at that time of his career change, Chet and two teammates were fresh off winning the grand prize in Domi Station’s Spring 2016 Get Started incubator program, which helped provide motivation toward trying something new.
Unlike more common “nostalgia” type t-shirts, with designs like a vintage Coca-Cola logo or Mickey Mouse, Local Vyntage is all about celebrating those more intimate memories, such as old restaurants, stadiums, or amusement parks that may no longer exist, but remain part of your identity and local culture. When people reminisce about “the good ol’ days” and “simpler times,” Chet wants to help them show their pride and share their memories by wearing Local Vyntage shirts. “We’re passionate about the things we have experienced and loved, especially during childhood through early adulthood.”
Local Vyntage’s designs include places and events from the 1960s through the 2000s, though most are from the ‘80s and ‘90s. “When you go online, you can find countless t-shirts featuring retro beers or video games, corporate logos like Pan Am Airways, old gas stations; things that were national,” Chet stated. “What’s unique about Local Vyntage is we’re focused on local stories that really only you and others from that area will remember.”
Local Vyntage wants to be a trusted source of local nostalgia. “We want to help our customers tell their stories and celebrate their fond memories,” said Chet. The company carefully researches local history, which often requires in-person trips to city archives. They work hard to ensure the final products are accurate representations and pay tribute to the original inspirations. Local Vyntage shirts are made from high quality yarns, and are manufactured in the United States. “It’s important to us that communities don’t see us as just another brand running through their city, grabbing up everyone’s favorite memories and printing them on poor-quality t-shirts made on another continent.”
Local Vyntage is starting with nostalgia t-shirts local to Tallahassee and Austin, Texas. In Tallahassee, Chet’s first designs include the old Spirit Spear at Doak Stadium, Mutt & Jeff’s Drive In, The Silver Slipper, Tallahassee Tiger Sharks, and more. The t-shirts themselves also have a soft vintage feel.
“It just doesn’t feel right to me, buying a t-shirt about a cherished local memory that was made somewhere outside of the U.S. I wouldn’t want to do that, so I don’t expect my customers to either. Sure, it means slightly higher costs, but I think it’s worth it.” Not only are the shirts made in the U.S., but they’re also labeled in the U.S. and screen-printed right here in Tallahassee.
In the future, Chet hopes to expand his lifestyle brand to many metro areas across the country. “My team and I have history, memories, connections and roots all over the country, and we can’t wait to expand to other places. We’ve received so many great ideas from our families and friends – ‘you’ve got to make a shirt about this thing or that place.’ It’s an overwhelming positive response, but we’re listening and it’s very exciting.”
“We’ll know we did our job when our customers head down memory lane with a total stranger because they were seen wearing one of our shirts.” Local Vyntage even has an area of their website reserved for visitors to share their own stories and fond memories of places they might not have expected to ever see again. “People love to reminisce, and we’re here to help them share their memories.”
Chet has affiliated Local Vyntage with a great-fitting charity for his nostalgic apparel business, the United States Lighthouse Society (USLHS). “I honestly can’t think of a better match. Lighthouses are all over the U.S. and once served a critical purpose – protecting vessels from rocky shores. Most no longer function with their original intent, but still serve as beautiful, historic structures on our coastlines. They’re part of our identity, just like our t-shirt designs. Unfortunately, many lighthouses are in dire need of repair and preservation, and we want to help with that.” Local Vyntage has pledged to donate annually to the cause.
Local Vyntage officially launched their first t-shirt collections last week. They are now available at localvyntage.com. Give new life to your unique nostalgia that’s been revitalized for modern use! Oh, and follow Local Vyntage on social media, too: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter.