Retail 101: Chief Indigo

Photography by Carl Nelson

Kane Johnson, vintage clothing connoisseur opened his first storefront called “Chief Indigo” at just 18 years old this past summer. Located in the heart of Fountain Square, Chief Indigo offers an intimate and unique vintage shopping experience. Johnson strives to keep his store personal to his interests, instead of trying to curate an aesthetic that would be sure to sell. The store definitely emanates Johnson’s fun and care-free personality, making the shopping experience relaxed.

Store name:
Chief Indigo

Store address:
1016 Virginia Avenue, Indianapolis, IN 46203

Store website:
None

Store instagram:
@chiefindigo

When did you open the store:
Summer 2019

Number of full-time employees:
One

What do you sell in the store:
Vintage clothing

Previous jobs/ventures:
Selling rugs to Midland Boutique vendors

Why did you decide to open your own storefront?
I did an antique flea market show two years ago with a friend of mine and we did incredible. We started posting to Instagram more with the clothes we found and it got so big that people from out of state started asking if we had a store. So we decided to open a show-room where people could come shop by appointment. That lasted for a few months, and then we decided to open a full-time storefront. Neither my friend or I had any big responsibility, no kids, no relationships, so we kind of just took life by the horns and went for it. We ran that first store together for a while and then we decided to go our separate ways and now here I am with my own store.

Do you have an online store as well?
I try to stay away from online stuff. I feel like in the modern world too much is based online. In a neighborhood like this, I want to be that guy that you know as “everything is local,” that way if you come check my store out you’ll probably end up checking the rest of Fountain Square out since it’s so cool. I always want to have a space that stays away from online sales.

Which came first the online store or the bricks and mortar store?
I sold clothes on Depop for a while, but I would rather have a space where I can meet people and build relationships with.

List five skills/qualifications that you think are important to have before launching a storefront?
Be ballsy, hard-working, courageous, driven and passionate about what you’re doing.

What’s the most effective marketing tool that you’ve been using recently?
Instagram has been very useful for me. You can use it to show the world anything, there’s something about Instagram that everyone loves.

What’s more important when opening a storefront: Location, having a nice cash cushion or having a lot of retail experience? Why?
I don’t think any of those things are that important, as long as your are passionate and driven I think you will succeed. Of course having a nice location is never bad, though.

When you are shopping for clothes to sell in your store, what are you looking for?
Trying to make sure the stuff I get is a part of pop culture and cute. I think our generation likes to touch back into the stuff we were raised on, so finding a bands tee that our parents raised us on is always a plus.

What’s the biggest challenge you face in running your business?
Keeping up with the man and the things that people crave. Trying to find ways of introducing different styles is hard in Indiana, it’s like the Midwest is two years behind California and New York when it comes to fashion. It’s hard to make those pieces attractive to the public when it isn’t popular yet.

What advice would you give to anyone thinking of opening their own storefront?
Give out a good energy. Being chill and relaxed and putting that into your store will give off a good vibe to your customers. Be creative and do whatever you want without worrying if people will like it or not.

What advice would you give to an up-and-coming brand looking to build a strong relationship with a retailer?
Be ballsy. You can always fix problems but you can never go back in time.

Are there any online resources that you regularly visit to help you run your business better, or keep up with the latest industry trends?
Honestly, it’s Instagram. There’s so much that you can discover on Instagram and you can pull inspiration from the aesthetics and vibes you find. It’s cool to see other stores succeed and doing cool stuff through Instagram too.

Check out Chief Indigo on Instagram!

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