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May 23: from online graphic tees to West Chester boutique

Photo courtesy of Steve Riek

Lauren Detweiler, Editor-in-Chief

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Easy to pass by as you’re strolling down Gay St., May 23 Clothing and Accessories—located at 117 W. Gay St.—has graced West Chester with its presence since Feb. 12, 2013. However, this was not the conception of May 23, which actually started out as an online t-shirt store in 2008. One of the more affordable boutiques in town, May 23 focuses on selling “fashionable clothing & accessories for both men and women.”

Though there are myriad boutiques scattered across the streets of West Chester, Pa., I wanted to share May 23’s story for a number of reasons. First, it really is easy to pass by; I went to school here for two years before stumbling into the adorable space, and that was only because I had friends from out of town visiting and they were curious as to what lay behind the doors. Second, it’s such a unique, underrated shop that, being relatively new, deserves a spotlight facing its way. Third, and last but not least, Atticus: the shop owner’s adorable canine sidekick.

Upon entering the store, you’ll probably be greeted by the ever friendly owner, Steve, and if you’re lucky, his adorable little Yorkshire Terrier, Atticus. While the shop is smaller than some, it’s packed full of great finds: West Chester-themed beanies, adorable button-up suede skirts, warm knit sweaters, sequined party dresses, graphic tees (for both men and women) and fashionable shoes.

I had the opportunity to learn more about May 23 and what it’s all about this past week upon getting in touch with the shop owner, Steve. We’d been in touch before after I won a fun contest they have wherein you get to do an Instagram takeover for their account; not only that, but the winner gets a $50 gift card—not much to complain about there.

I asked Steve what motivated him to start May 23 which, as mentioned, began as an online t-shirt retailer. Turns out, that wasn’t quite the beginning: “I originally started silk screening for charity big wheel pub crawls I organized. You rode your plastic tricycle between bars and raised money for charity.” This then led into all kinds of tees ultimately culminating in what is now May 23.

What I wasn’t expecting to hear was that before owning this store, Steve was a software engineer with the t-shirts merely constituting a side job. Things fell into place for the shop when he got “laid off from corporate America” and the original renter of the space, Eat. Drink. Om. Yoga Café, found a new location. Thus, the brick and mortar version of May 23 was born, which Steve feels is important because, “You definitely build more of a relationship with your customers in a brick and mortar. Online shoppers are often just looking for the best deal. You try to personalize the experience as much as you can, but there’s a good chance they’re a one and done shopper.”

I was curious if owning a store was always something Steve wanted to do (especially after finding out he used to be a software engineer). However, just like the rest of us, he’s not quite sure: “I’m still trying to decide what I want to be when I grow up. My days go anywhere from writing software in the morning, selling clothes in the afternoon, to taking pictures of beef jerky and baby products at night. The last couple of years, I’ve been trying to focus more on acting and film. We’ll see where the next year goes.”

I remember upon finding this store, I was quite curious about the name; May 23 is certainly a unique one, but it has deeper meaning to the owner. May 23 is actually a remembrance of a friend and isn’t the actual business’ name, just the store’s. The business’ name is Milk the Pony Productions—quite the interesting name as well. “It was going to be our band name in high school. It really has no meaning other than Ass Pony was already taken.” He said, “The sales reps never forget you though when you call and they ask for your company name.”

If you’ve never been to the store or to their website, they really do sell adorable clothing. Upon being asked what the inspiration is behind the store’s merchandise, Steve said, “I guess those years of my mom taking me along shopping paid off. I choose what I think is good and hope for the best, since I can’t wear most of our products. We do have a small men’s section.” Steve went on to say, “We end up with random things for sale in the store like onesie animal pajamas and there’s usually some kind of Lego set hidden around the store. I guess that’s what happens when a guy owns a women’s clothing store.”

Though defining a brand might be hard for May 23, Steve gave it a go, stating they “have a bit of everything,” and truly, they do: “We’ve got everything from crazy cat tank tops to full on sequin dresses.” Steve also described the space as having a “classic/retro feel” in the things they carry as well as the atmosphere—a record player and lava lamp pulse in the background. And let’s not forget, “To a lot of people, we’re the store with the little dog.”

Speaking of which, I had to ask about Atticus. Steve said he’s been around since the beginning of the brick and mortar store, getting him when he was just three months old (he’s now seven!). “His name was on the store window before the store’s name, so he’s very spoiled,” Steve said, “Many people think the store is actually called Atticus’ Corner. Most weeks the poor guy is at the store more than I am. He’s a hard working pup!”

If you want to check out the store for yourself, swing by 117 W. Gay St. (especially if you want to visit Atticus) or check it out at may23online.com. They also post frequently on Instagram and Twitter @May23Online.

Lauren Detweiler is a fourth-year student majoring in English writings with a minor in communication studies. She can be reached at [email protected]

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The Student News Service of West Chester University
May 23: from online graphic tees to West Chester boutique