University of Oregon advertising student Eduardo Olivares and recent UO alum Harrison Stevens performed what they described as “emergency surgery” on a 10-foot clothing rack after learning it would not fit through the door of their new vintage clothing store.
“A couple weeks before we even opened, this place was a mess,” Olivares said. “We were just doing a bunch of stuff that I never thought I’d have to do when I opened up a store.”
Despite the challenges, Olivares said their hard work paid off in early January when he and Stevens opened The Neighborhood Eugene Sustainability Team to the public. Customers lined the sidewalk on 13th Avenue for their grand opening, some waiting two or three hours in the rain to see what The N.E.S.T. had to offer.
“It’s been a fun experience,” Stevens said. “Our biggest challenge is just keeping the level of excitement high, keeping the gear fresh and continuing to offer a product that a lot of people want.”
Olivares and Stevens initially sold vintage t-shirts, crewnecks and hoodies, as well as Duck gear through their respective Instagram pages, BounceBack Thrifts and Stanley Thrifts. But after Olivares saw Stevens sell his products at the ASUO Street Faire in spring 2019, the two became close friends and business partners, collaborating with Eugene brands Public Street Wear and Article Won to sell clothing at their stores.
Their experiences making in-person sales showed them which items were popular and how to choose appropriate price points. Interacting with customers face to face further motivated them to open a store of their own. Second-hand duck gear, vintage t-shirts and letterman jackets are just some of the items that can be found at The N.E.S.T.
“Everything that’s on the floor is already washed, which gives my mind ease, but also distinguishes us from being a thrift store,” Stevens said. While a thrift store’s products consist of donated materials, The N.E.S.T. is curated, only featuring clothing that Olivares and Stevens choose to make available. “Eduardo and I know every single t-shirt and every single sweatshirt that’s here right now, which I think is unique.”
Olivares said that while some of their customers are experienced second-hand shoppers, others have never bought vintage clothing before.
“You get students from all over the world that come to Eugene and most of them have never experienced or been in the vintage culture,” Olivares said. “It’s something new that we brought to Eugene and really just have shown people that there’s more than just The Duck Store.”
To give customers a safe shopping experience during the COVID-19 pandemic, Olivares and Stevens require clients to schedule 30-minute appointments, which ensures the shop never exceeds its maximum capacity of seven people at a time. They also offer hand sanitizer, wipes and masks.
Although opening a business during a pandemic can be risky, Olivares said the timing was essential to their start.
“He was about to graduate,” Olivares said about Stevens. “He had other opportunities popping up, and I felt like if we didn’t do it now, he might have taken another opportunity.”
Indeed, Stevens did accept a job in Seattle, which ultimately fell through. “It ended up being a blessing in disguise,” Stevens said. “I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to be here and dedicate my time fully to this, and I think it ended up working out for the best.”
Now, working at the shop and sourcing products is Stevens’ full time job, while Olivares is a full time student trying to balance work, school and his fraternity.
“When I was a junior, I was just doing the street faire for the very first time,” Stevens said. “Now Eduardo’s in his junior year, and he’s got this on his hands and I think that’s really motivating and really impressive. I know other students look up to him as a person they aspire to be like and a model student to chase what you’re passionate about and make it happen.”
Eugene N.E.S.T. is located at 870 E 13th Ave.. More information can be found at www.eugenenest.com.