Jinxed's mix of castoffs earns retail and social media love

Mike Supermodel, second from left and the owner of Jinxed, joins his general manager, Megan Latona, second from right, and fellow employees Charles Pace and Liz Sparacio at the Jinxed Fishtown store.

I miss the old Philadelphia, say the black-and-white bumper stickers stacked by the cash register in Jinxed's Fishtown store.

Although the "Philadelphia" font comes from this newspaper's masthead, the sentiment is all business owner Mike Supermodel.

"I'm a lifer here," said the 43-year-old South Philly native and Brewerytown resident, seated in a crowded work space in the back of the store. "You can't explain to people who moved here recently what it was actually like back when they were filming Twelve Monkeys, back when homeless people were living in what is now CAPA on Broad Street."

In other words, the city's once-bleak landscape - vacant historic buildings, sidewalks that emptied after dark - has been transformed so dramatically newcomers can't imagine Philly's past.

But, if the retail (and social-media) success of his five Jinxed stores is any indication, you can, however, sell newcomers - and old locals - pieces of Philly's past.

The Frankford Avenue store sits between La Colombe's flagship and a Snap Kitchen in a building that was once a sock factory. On a recent day, the sales floor displayed industrial flat files; a 1970s Honda motorcycle; a hot-pink Bonwit Teller evening coat; a giant, black wooden Pegasus; dial telephones; and baskets full of drawer pulls, signature Jinxed scented candles, bright woven blankets, and retro-inspired holiday decorations.

Supermodel called the old-and-new assortment "eclectic, for lack of a better-than-that overused word." But when it comes down to it, the collection of Philadelphia's trendy castoffs and coordinating merchandise is very much intentional, even if it grew out of a happy accident.

Jinxed began as a T-shirt maker and wholesaler. Supermodel (that's his real, legally changed name - "I have no attachment to my birth name.") worked for the company before he bought it in 2000. In 2004, he moved into a storefront just off South Street. Amid tattoo and piercing parlors, he sold art and design books and Jinxed shirts, which were (and still are) created by friends. After street construction all but killed business in 2008, he moved to Northern Liberties' Piazza, where his buddy Jason Goldberg, owner of Olde City Tattoo, had opened a large gallery. When Goldberg left to focus on inking, Supermodel found himself with space to fill.

Not surprisingly, he knew a guy.

"I started going under the El and finding clean-out guys - literally - at [Kensington and Allegheny Avenues]," he said. "Picked up one of those '50s Formica-and-chrome kitchen table sets and stuck that in the room. Sold it in a couple of days, and I'm like, 'That's weird.' "

So he went back to K&A. Got more stuff. Priced it to sell. "I bought two pieces, four pieces, eight pieces, and then started going to flea markets. Bought an SUV, then an SUV with a boat trailer, then a van," he said.

Customers, especially Northern Liberties' new wave of residents, couldn't get enough of Jinxed's reasonably priced vintage finds. Developer Bart Blatstein, then the Piazza's owner, praised the work ethic of Supermodel - he even manned the register so the shop owner could take a break from time to time.

From there, Jinxed client and Fishtown developer Roland Kassis offered up the Frankford Avenue space. "There were giant holes in the roof," he said. Kassis gave him a break on the rent and assured him his future next-door neighbor would be a big boon to business. He was right.

During weekends, there's a line out the door of La Colombe, and Jinxed has benefited from the traffic. The Fishtown shop, open since 2013, is easily the busiest of all five stores. Second busiest is the year-old Baltimore Avenue shop, which specializes in large, Victorian pieces that fit into older West Philly homes. The Northern Liberties (since 2009) shop is known for its stock of Oriental rugs. The year-and-a-half-old Passyunk Avenue site caters to longer-term residents.

"We've grown from strapping things to the roof of a two-door Explorer to now we have five trucks - and go through a couple of box trucks full of furniture a week," said Supermodel. Jinxed's customer base has grown, too: It's no longer just local renters and homeowners.

"Businesses are using us as a resource," he said. Among them: Harp & Crown, a new Center City restaurant with a bowling alley, is decked out with Jinxed merchandise.

"I go there once a week," said photo stylist and home stager Barbara Botting, whose clients include Philadelphia Wedding magazine and Wagner Urban Development. "I'm always able to find whatever I need for a shoot: a billiards table, a book of prints, small desks, chairs, since Philadelphia homes tend to be smaller and need smaller-scale furniture." Still, neighbors are the reliable core of each shop.

For her own home, she's found Japanese inlaid lidded boxes and a studio sofa upholstered in linen with down pillows. "It was in fantastic shape for $50, and it was too good to pass up."

Three staffers double as buyers. "They all have free rein," Supermodel said, "Megan Latona - who's my general manger - she's 27. She's going to see stuff as a 27-year-old woman that appeals to [the Jinxed] demographic." Another buyer who is 34 finds and fixes old turntables and radios. "We have a lot of different eyes that are bringing things in, judging," he said.

Employee agency is something Supermodel uses to Jinxed's advantage. He's happy to let staffers sell their own finds - vintage clothing, for example - and handmade goods like pillows and ceramics. He prides himself on listening when a new idea comes along. "My answer's yes, until it's no," he said.

Two years ago, Jinxed's then-GM suggested filling staff downtime by posting items on Instagram. The boss said to go for it.

"We were literally the first ones selling stuff on Instagram," he said. "The whole thing with our business is, everything is unique and visual. We never hashtagged. We never bought followers. Just told people to call to buy. . . . It's like they're getting concert tickets from the radio station."

Today, the stores' followers exceed 46,000, although the platform's latest algorithm has thrown a bit of a wrench into the works - new merchandise "doesn't show up in order anymore," said Supermodel, and in-demand pieces, like bar carts, for example, don't stick around long.

"At this point, people know if they need a couch to go see if Jinxed has it," he said. When customers come, they know not to haggle. As soon as a new (old) piece arrives, the Jinxed staff gets on a group text to figure out the fairest pricing. "We play that game among ourselves first."

Another game they play: Looking for new locations. "The places we put ourselves in are intentional," he said. He won't say, however, where he's thinking about going next, and he's not worried about running out of stuff.

He does, however, question the market. "I wonder where it's going to top out," he said.

After all, he's from Philly.