Not many people would expect to discover a basement filled with rows of Purdue shirts in the state of Michigan.
But in the house of Marcus and Venessa Martin, they would find just that.
The husband and wife duo have run Martin Vintage, a startup business, out of their home since September. Their mission is to sell high-quality, inexpensive shirts featuring vintage designs.
Their shirts can be purchased from www.martinvintage.com for $23.99 each. They currently pertain to Purdue football and basketball, though Martin Vintage is looking to expand its catalogue later this year with engineering-related products and other designs.
Vanessa explained that many antique shirts do not stay in good condition over time. This is something she and her husband aim to avoid.
“Who wants a shirt that doesn’t hold its shape and feel comfortable once you wash it once or twice?” she said.
Marcus’ interest in the business stems from his teenage years, when he started his hobby of collecting vintage shirts.
He recounted a story of a project he undertook to sell vintage shirts in high school.
“I was given a loan by my dad for $800, which I thought was insane at the time,” he said.
But the effort paid off, and Marcus sold 200 vintage shirts in a school with less than 800 kids. The experience was influential in his decision to later design shirts in his college years at the University of Notre Dame.
He began to experiment by incorporating old designs with new apparel. He found inspiration in old ticket stubs, cups and other items.
“I always thought that the older logos were better than the new designs,” he said.
Vanessa went to college at Purdue, where she studied civil engineering. Since they began dating while in college, they are focusing their products on her alma mater.
For now, the Martins wish to sell only Purdue products due to their loyalty and love for the school. If their business continues to grow, though, they would be interested in expanding to other universities.
The duo divvies up responsibilities evenly. Marcus directs the designs and creative aspects of the business while Vanessa handles the administrative work and inventory.
They put hours of research into constructing their brand, including visiting Purdue bookstores to provide customers with unique options, looking for trends on eBay and purchasing over a hundred sample shirts to test quality and expense of materials.
Once Marcus’s designs are approved by Purdue, the shirts are printed by Promoversity, a company run out of Crystal Lake, Illinois.
The Martins have two sons and hope their passion for design and shirt-making will teach them valuable lessons about life.
Vanessa said it’s good for their children to learn about the uncertainty of a startup business.
“It might be scary, it might not be a success, but you can’t not try just because you’re afraid,” she said.
Her husband fully supports this outlook.
“One of the reasons we do this is to show our boys if you want to do something, go out and do it,” he said. “Don’t sit on the sidelines.”