‘Thrift God’ Ché Stout, preaches about more than just selling clothes
You’ve probably seen him outside Brower
If you've passed Brower Dining Hall on College Ave over the past few weeks, you've probably seen a blue pop-up tent with a variety of items on display. If curiosity got the best of you, you probably approached and sifted through some of the shirts, maybe picked up a hat or two. At a glance, the set up seems to be nothing more than a random guy selling his clothes. But there's more than meets the eye to both the items for sale and the man behind the magic.
Ché Stout, a former Rutgers student, set up his pop-up shop earlier this month, just in time for back to school. He came ready to sell pieces that he acquired from every odd and end imaginable, including life lessons, knowledge, and experiences that he as a person has faced during his life. Manhattan born and Jersey raised, he enlightens The Tab on where he's been, why he's at Rutgers, and what's next.
Who are you? Where are you from?
My name is Ché, full name Ché Stout. In a nutshell, I was born in Manhattan, NY, and lived there until 2004. The I moved to Rahway, and lived there until I was 18. I basically grew up there.
I came to Rutgers, and for the 2 or 3 years that I was here, I tried to go as hard as I could: joined a Phi Delta Theta , played sports, the whole nine yards. Then I came to the conclusion, you know, that college wasn't necessarily for me. I decided to start early with my career and move forward with that stuff. I'd always been into entrepreneurship.
I actually started off as a Comp. Sci major, I'm a big geek, a very, very big geek. I left school and got a job in the IT field. Once I had enough savings, I moved out to Long Island with my childhood friend.
My other childhood friend gave me a call and said he had two slots. All of us were cool with each other, we were on some 3 Musketeers. Out there, I did some retail IT, giving me all the experience that I needed.
When/Why did you start the pop-up?
I had all this vintage stuff and wanted to take it to the next level – I used Depop to sell my stuff. After gaining close to 2,000 followers, I decided that I wanted to more in-person stuff, the online process was getting tedious, so I decided, 'Hey, let's do pop-ups?' So in August of this year, I reached out to a couple of people and got a couple of bookings.
We did an Afro-punk before and after party in Williamsburg, PA, amazing spot. That was my first official pop-up. It was everything I wanted it to be, and solidified all of my reasons for closing down the online store. I was talking to people more and having a better time. I started thinking about what I wanted to do for September, and immediately what came to mind was that Syllabus week is always on and poppin'.
So you know, let me do a Back-to-School pop-up. I started putting 2 and 2 together. Students are really into vintage clothing, you see it at tailgates and stuff like that and they're always wearing the throwbacks. It was one of those perfect fits because I've been collecting this stuff all my life."
I had previously bought an item from the shop about a week earlier, and while I was there, someone was always talking to Ché. Conversations mostly pertained to the shop, but a lot of people came over just to dap him up or say hey. At this point, 3 people had already came up to just talk to him.
Where do you get your stuff from?
It's a combination of things, I get it from everywhere. People think it's a smart-ass answer, but it's true. Some of it is gifted from friends or family, some of it is vintage, you know from your classic thrifts runs.
I go to estate sales, or if someone has dead-stock that they're just holding on to, I'll get stuff from there. Those are the types of places where I'm searching the corner of the Earth for gems. Ultimately, if it's awesome to me, then I'm gonna try to pick it up.
Yeah, because someone else is gonna think the same thing.
Exactly. I've gotten to the point where if I look at something and think it's cool, someone else thinks it's cool to. So that tells me that I have at least some sort of eye for it.
I was actually in the city the other day and this dude had an authentic Knicks jersey from the 90's. It was a Charles Oakley jersey, I knew it was authentic from the Champion brand. I looked at my brother and told him, 'Tell me I won't go over and buy that from him right now'. It was one of those things that I just had to have.
Did you have a goal in mind for the shop?
Definitely. I would say that I just wanted the pop-ups to go well. But big picture wise, it's as the saying goes 'get it how you live'. I want to get to the point where this cans sustain me, and I can use it to invest into other business ideas. I remember being a freshman and learning about coding iPhone apps.
I may want to build a better community, but that costs money. You have to get a team together and pay professionals. For what the pop up is, I've exceeded my goal. Now it's about keeping momentum. Hopefully I can take it to the next level, get more brands and get in on drops. At the end of the day, it's about delivering quality service to people.
Have you met anyone who's become more than a customer?
It's hard to keep track because of how many people I've met this month, but I've met a variety of artists. My first week, a customer bought a Moschino bag off of me and we were going back and forth about fashion. Her attention to detail and quality was amazing, that's something I appreciate so much.
We looked at shirts and she'd appreciate things like texture and stitch work – I'm all about stitch work. I've linked with artists and they've had their stuff in the shop. I've talked with people for hours about art, things we're both trying to work on. I appreciate people who stick around just to talk. Some people will walk away while I'm talking and I'm just like 'Wait, I have cool stuff to say'.
They're trends. Things die out and are recycled.
It's like people create now just to sell, it's very surface level. Now people want to become a part of something, and it's like a simulation. What you thought culture was, what you thought would be a bond, is all fabricated. But I get it, at the end of the day everyone needs to adapt. If you don't, you'll be the debbie downer and expose things for what they are while everyone is trying to have fun.
Usually those are people who don't have the means to market their culture. It's like short selling in stocks. People pump up their "culture", which is just their value or their brands value. Then people buy into it, and the stock crashes because there was never any value to begin with. It's a 'pump and dump'. I grew up with all of this stuff, so it holds real value to me. As a kid I remember having items with original tags and the feeling I got from holding a piece from a certain time.
Some people are just out here for the styles, I get it, not everyone is out here for that feeling. You have knock offs of brands who have developed a culture. Higher brands like Gucci and Louis Vuitton make a point, where it's like, 'Okay, you want to look Gucci? Louis Vuitton? Buy it. Get the authentic.' It's people pumping their value when nothing is really there. It comes down to respect."
Do you have a message to people who want to invest in themselves?
Go hard, stay positive, and keep going. I've been rolling with obstacles and punches you know, I'm on my own. You're gonna deal with stress, so you need to balance yourself. My first day here, within 24 hours, I lost my phone, my laptop fried, and I crashed my car. But there was only one thing on my mind: the store. It's easy to get discouraged because it feels like you're against the world.
As a freshman, I had a music group that I was managing, and decided to put money into it because we were doing so well. I made some shirts, and did not sell a single one. It felt like I took the biggest L, I felt like a loser. But I thought about what I had to do better so that I could come back stronger and harder. If you have something that you're confident in, you planned it out, and you've checked for chinks in the armor so the plan is bulletproof, get going. People ask 'When do I start?' Start now. Start here. Don't win and lose, win and learn. Keep positive, eat healthy, drink water. All that and a bag of chips.
If you missed out on the pop-up this month, don't worry. Ché will be back during the spring semester once both the flowers and dages begin to bloom. You can browse more items on his Instagram, @thankyouthriftgod.