An arcade console on the wall, framed photography across the room and a vibrant white sculpture occupy a new lifestyle store in the Short North.
Madison-USA, located on the corner of High Street and Fifth Avenue and taking up the former American Apparel space, is an urban store founded by Chicagoans Jarrel Tolbert, Jelani Floyd and Evan Turner, the former Ohio State basketball star and current Portland Trail Blazers forward.
“This is our first entry into the world,” said Floyd, who is also president of business operations. “We’re bringing Chicago with us, but we’re here to highlight the Columbus culture.”
Floyd said Columbus already has a lot to offer between the food, the art community and Ohio State. The trio wanted to merge and integrate into the existing culture, but also bring something they felt was missing: sport-influenced, street-style garments.
Apparel featured includes its in-house line, which displays the shop’s name on Champion-brand sweatpants, sweatshirts and long-sleeve T-shirts, and designer brands like Death to Tennis, Robert Geller and Levi’s Vintage.
“We really appreciate and respect people that kind of do clothing from an art perspective,” said Tolbert, who is the shop’s creative director. “We chose these particular designers because they have a tradition to them … but also a lot of sport influence, and a lot of what we do is influenced by sport.”
Floyd, Tolbert and Turner grew up together on the west side of Chicago. Floyd said the group would play basketball, but also hang out at the corner of West Madison Street and South Pulaski Road, an area where they bought anything from bootlegged DVDs to White Castle.
“That intersection of Madison and Pulaski means so much to us,” Floyd said. “Everyone in the world has a Madison-USA to them, or a street they fell in love with as a kid or an adult that offers something special or unique and truly embodies the sentiment of the community.”
Though the shop was inspired by their childhood, Tolbert said he hoped it will resonate with their customers.
“We took Madison and Pulaski and shortened it to Madison-USA because we wanted to be like, ‘Hey, no matter where we go or no matter where our customers go, they are representational of the Madison brand,’” he said.
Jesse Villanueva, a professional streetwear enthusiast whose sneaker collection has been featured by the New York Times, has been charged with merging the founders’ Chicago roots with Columbus culture. He calls Madison-USA an educational lifestyle shop.
“Kind of the point of a lifestyle store is for it to be a balance of product and education,” Villanueva said. “It’s a matter of bringing in the brands everyone knows and love and also educating consumers on the new designer brands and creative minds that will be the next people.”
Tolbert said the shop has goals of hosting workshops to teach locals and students about the stores clothing, how to start an original brand and maybe even tips on opening a store.
“We’re excited to build on what we’ve created here,” Tolbert said. “There may be an artist or a designer at The Ohio State University who is sitting on a line in their dorm room that we don’t know about and we would want to put a highlight on that person.”