Bringing you the best stories from Columbus business owners, cbuzz is presented by the Columbus Chamber in collaboration with the Columbus Dispatch and CD1025. Our host, local comedian Dan Swartwout, talks with entrepreneurs every other week in Columbus’ first business-focused podcast.
Ryan ‘The Vintage Villain’ Vesler is the genius behind Homage, America’s hottest vintage t-shirt brand. Based out of Columbus, Homage has risen to astronomical levels, levels higher than the vertical leap of Dominique Wilkins on NBA Jam. Launching in 2007, Homage began as an e-commerce operation primarily on eBay.
Vesler, who used to be known as â€œThe Vintage Villainâ€ (originally misspelled â€œVillianâ€), developed an affinity for vintage clothing after a childhood of going to thrift stores with his older sister. Graduating from high school in 2001, Vesler would begin to start selling vintage t-shirts after his freshman year at Ohio University a year later.
Selling shirts via eBay for five years, Vesler would develop Homage, which has grown to become one of Columbus’ most well-known brands.
Homage’s first design was a basic â€˜Block O’ Ohio State t-shirt that was an instant hit, and has been a cornerstone of Vesler’s success with his company.
Running several pop up shops around town in the early years, Homage would continue to grow under Vesler’s direction and simplicity for his brand.
Looking to take more control of his product and a way to improve the total customer experience, Vesler and Homage made the leap to a brick and mortar shop in Columbus, and the results have been remarkable. As Homage has tremendous brand recognition and loyalty, Vesler’s vision and willingness to stick to what he knows best has paid dividends.
â€œI think there’s a certain simplicity to our designs, they are sort of a nod to things of the past,â€ Vesler said. â€œWhat is at the core of that is that it brings people together.â€
Whether it’s being able to play NBA Jam inside Homage’s Columbus location, or the snazzy throwback 90s baseball cards included in online t-shirt shipments, Homage just has â€˜it.’
â€œFor us, it’s about storytelling, and it’s about authenticity and I think plenty of people can get a blank shirt and put the shape of Ohio on something but what does that really mean?,â€ Vesler said. â€œIt’s the things like those packs of trading cars and the store experience, where people say â€˜If I’m gonna buy a shirt that celebrates where I’m from, I’m gonna buy it from Homage’â€
Focused on providing the best customer service experience possible, Homage is intent on making sure their customers not only remember their product, but that they keep coming back.
â€œWe really go out of our way to make sure that the entire experience from in-store to customer service to what our employees say and do, and how they act, is top notch,â€ Vesler said. â€œWhen you say Columbus I want people to say â€˜yeah you should check out Homage’â€
Striving to be known as the â€˜Larry Bird of Clothing,’ Vesler brings a certain type of uniqueness and hyperlocal affinity that has been a big reason for Homage’s success and brand recognition.
With shops in Columbus and Cincinnati, Vesler announced that Homage is planning on opening a store in Cleveland in November. While local lore and mystique type designs have been at the core of Homage’s product for years, Vesler noted that the brand is looking to branch out in the long term and not be â€œso married to regional affiliations.â€
No matter what direction Vesler decides to takes Homage in, we are confident that the homegrown company will continue to flourish, as Columbus is very fortunate to have Homage right here in the heart of the city.
August 4, 2015
Dan Swartout, Host; Ryan Vesler, Founder, Homage
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