In January of 2014, Casey Paton and Mark Lisavich, former frat brothers at Villanova, decided to join forces and change careers. Each having found success in different fields—Paton was a successful stock trader and Lisavich a computer programmer—they chose something neither one of them had professional experience with: the intersection of retail, fashion, and charity.
Jump past their teaming up with the MassArt design grads behind the South End’s Emulsion Printhouse, previewing for friends and family, and launching an ecommerce site, all while learning the start-up ropes, and you have Encore Apparel Company. The company quietly opened its first brick and mortar storefront-slash-fulfillment-and-private-event-space tucked along the Charlestown Navy Yard a few weeks ago, blocks away from the sparkling new Spaulding Rehabilitation Center.
“I grew up in Maine with parents who were big hippies,” says Paton. “I kind of wanted to build a brand around that [folk rock] aesthetic and time period, around [the] general attitude and music.” Besides Bob Dylan and The Band, Paton says he and partner Lisavich have taken a lot of inspiration for EAC from New England-based apparel titan Life Is Good (whose founder Bert Jacobs is a fellow Villanova alum). “They’re a great company, but we tried to put a different spin on it. We’re not a streetwear company obviously, but we’re trying to be younger and music driven,” he says.
The space itself contains industrial concrete juxtaposed with a modular design. The roof is cement and slanted toward the water, and is a reminder of the building’s history as a large-scale ocean vessel launch. Think: an open-floor format, reclaimed barn wood, leather sofas, and petrified wood tables made from pillars of timber from the 1800s found preserved in the muck off the Navy Yard during the construction of the Spaulding center, courtesy of Longleaf Lumber in Cambridge. After the self-financed project garnered excitement for the men’s and women’s shirts, hoodies, and hats available from its online portal, it was encouraging enough to make the store a reality. Still, Paton says the move from corporate banking to independent philanthropic business owner keeps him up some nights.
“I left banking [and] I wanted to try different things,” he says. “[But] some nights I lay in bed and think I’m crazy to have given up that career to take a shot at something [like this].”
What’s been driving the partners forward in spite of the risk of launching a startup in a shaky economy, not to mention the low foot traffic where the store is (“We’re kind of tucked away,” says Paton with a laugh) has been the desire to stick to their goal of incorporating a social responsibility component into the brand. In short: not to be just another company trying to make a fast buck. To do that, the team took a page from the Grateful Dead’s Rex Foundation, which finds individuals and small organizations doing community-driven charity work and pledges support. EAC has already teamed up with an initiative based 20 miles south of Boston that’s centered on families who have lost spouses and loved ones to cancer. EAC creates a shirt and its tagline around a specific charity, and four dollars of every sale off the top line goes right to the group it’s supporting.
“I wanted to bring into corporate enterprise [a] sense of giving,” says Paton. “I think there’s a lot of apathy in the world these days, so to see people giving up their time and energy for [their] community [is] something I wanted to try to support and promote through this company.”
ENCORE APPAREL COMPANY. NOW OPEN. C5 SHIPWAY PLACE (OFF 1ST AVE. AND 13TH ST.), CHARLESTOWN. ENCOREAPPAREL.COM
Dan is a freelance journalist and has written for publications including Vice, Esquire, the Daily Beast, Fast Company, Pacific Standard, MEL, Leafly, Thrillist, and DigBoston.