MAPLEWOOD / SOUTH ORANGE, NJ — What started as a freshman class project for three Columbia High School students to explore personal interests has expanded into MAPSOSupply, a curated selection of secondhand clothing and clothing with original designs promoting South Orange and Maplewood.
MAPSOSupply is run by Thomas Dandino, Ethan Pidgeon and Adam Krakower, all seniors at CHS. The three partners developed the idea for their business four years ago and decided to take it out of the classroom.
“In our freshman biology class, our teacher had us do an assignment every Monday called the ‘passion project’ where we worked on something that we were passionate about,” Pidgeon said in a recent phone interview with the News-Record. “Tom, Adam and I realized that we all had a bunch of clothes that we were no longer using and we decided that we wanted to start a business and sell them.
“MAPSO Steals and Deals was the original name of our business, but then we started adding to our collection by going to thrift stores and finding clothes to resell at a profit,” he continued adding that they eventually decided to change the business’ name to MAPSOSupply.
In the beginning the partners focused solely on selling carefully selected secondhand clothing on their website, spending hours browsing through secondhand and vintage stores to find pieces they felt their customers would like.
“The goal with the vintage clothes is that it is super tedious or you have to pay crazy amounts of money to go to curated boutiques and spend a lot of time to find something good. We take care of that by doing the shopping for you and then selling the items at fair prices,” Pidgeon said.
The response to their venture was so overwhelming that the three partners decided to create original pieces to show their appreciation for the local support that they were receiving.
“We found a love in the South Orange and Maplewood communities at large, along with our CHS peers, so we decided to make products that reflect the support we were getting from the two towns. First we released MAPSOSupply baseball hats that I designed, each with a unique design for the specific town,” Pidgeon said. “We really went through this shift where we recognized MAPSOSupply was thriving because of all of the local support we received. We were honored when SOMA General Store invited us in to do the holiday pop-up shop.”
The team decided to take their pride for Maplewood and South Orange to the next level by creating custom crewneck sweaters that sold out within minutes.
“We got ‘MAPSO’ printed on crew necks so that we could show the community that we appreciate their support,” Pidgeon said. “We only released 20 at first, but we had 40 peers who were lined up to buy them. That’s when we realized there was a huge demand for people to have clothes that reflect their community. We want to stay true to our vintage roots but we also have seen an incredible response to our own clothing.”
The team members have been running the business year-round for the past four years via their website, and still enjoy going out thrifting and designing original pieces to highlight their hometowns.
“Ethan and Tom started MAPSOSupply in freshman biology class and I was a late addition to the crew,” Krakower said in a recent phone interview with the News-Record. “Initially I would thrift clothes for them but then we decided to combine efforts. I like the community that it has brought — the vintage clothing community and then the excitement of the MAPSO community. Here in town when I see people wearing the clothes or the hats, it gives me such a feeling of commitment to our effort, and a sense of pride.”
Their website receives visits from all over the country, but — ever loyal to their local fans — the three hand-deliver the South Orange and Maplewood orders.
“Originally when me and Ethan decided to start the business we didn’t know much about clothes; we just provided things we knew the community would love to wear. For a while we were buying and selling vintage and high-end pieces and we organized flea markets at our school where classmates were also able to sell items,” Dandino said in a recent phone interview with the News-Record. “It’s one thing to be an entrepreneur, but being able to help our peers be entrepreneurs is awesome. Instead of focusing on profit we focus on reinvesting our energy into finding better merchandise. By not paying ourselves, we are not driven economically: we are driven by bringing our customers the best product that we can.”
Pidgeon said he plans to study business in college, so MAPSOSupply has not only been a labor of love, but also an opportunity to experience the realities of running a small business.
“One of the main reasons we did this is for educational purposes; we didn’t pay ourselves at all we just keep reinvesting into the business,” Pidgeon said. “We try to teach ourselves business principles and entrepreneurship skills.”
Dandino echoed Pidgeon’s appreciation for the entrepreneurial skills that the three have been able to hone.
“As a team we realized that people love to rep the two towns, but there was really nothing to rep them,” Dandino said, adding that their products’ simplicity “gives people a basic product and they can wear the two towns right across their chest. Time and time again we have had the biggest backing and support from the community for all the ventures we look into. My mom is an entrepreneur herself. She’s one of the hardest working people I know, and I see all of the happiness it’s brought to her. I have been able to learn so much behind the scenes while working to organize orders, track expenses and profits, email and marketing, and it will eventually help me to be successful down the line on a much bigger scale.”
MAPSOSupply items can be purchased at www.mapsosupply.com.
Photos Courtesy of Ethan Pidgeon