Follow that Truck

by Alexandra Gurvitch / Beacon Correspondent • December 1, 2011

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Green Street Vault at the corner of Newbury and Gloucester Street
Green Street Vault at the corner of Newbury and Gloucester Street

Senior Derrick Cheung and business partner Howard Travis have had praised heaped on them by many media outlets and loyal customers, but they have no plans to bask in the limelight for too long. At this point, the only thing that stands between Green Street Vault’s owners and their goals are stop signs.

Cheung, a marketing communication major, is the co-creator of the Green Street Vault, a mobile clothing shop which has been rolling around Boston since September. Cheung and Howard Travis, who graduated from Northeastern University in 2001, developed the business after winning the E3 expo here at Emerson. 

Though the business is still in its infancy, Green Street has developed a devout fanbase. 

“It’s a college kid’s wet dream. It bumps great music at all times, it catches your eye from a mile away, and it seems very authentic and unique in the midst of all of the plain, stationary retail stores,” said Ken Glauber, a senior visual and media arts major. “Plus the logo on the side is fresh.”

Because Green Street only purchases small stocks of clothing from companies like NIKE, Meister, and Rock Smith, they have more space to stash new items. 

“We just picked up Flu, 47 brand snapbacks, and a local skate brand called Grade Select,” said Cheung.

Green Street cycles carefully selected new brands onto the shelves of the roving vendor’s stockroom, said Cheung. This selectiveness is a draw to a lot of costumers.

“Half the reason I go back is to chat with Derrick and Howard about what’s new in the truck because it changes all of the time, and there is always something new that will sell out immediately,” said Glauber.

Cheung and his sister Cryssy recently designed new Green Street-branded T-shirts with Green Street Vault floating in balloons on the front with the words “So High” emblazoned on the back. This tagline is a bit of innuendo, but it also means that they are “above everybody in comparison to stores,” said Cheung. “We are taking it to a whole new level. We are on a whole other stratosphere of retail.” 

The new shirts are completely original and in limited supply. 

“We printed 100 men’s pieces and 100 women’s pieces,” Cheung said. “It was cool because we wanted to test the market — we wanted to see if people actually cared about Green Street and how loyal our fanbase was.”

Cheung said they created a preorder system for those who wanted to reserve the new tees, and they initially kept the design hidden from costumers. Despite the mystery, they received about 50 preorders and the tees are now nearly sold out.

“It is absolutely vital to keep our inventory fresh,” Cheung said. 

The clothing truck has developed a following of customers who consistently check in to see what’s new. Not only do they have a loyal following from Emerson but they’ve also been gaining attention from other schools like Boston University. 

“Almost everyone I hang out with has something from the Vault. I told my cousin about it over Thanksgiving break and he texted his friend from BU to go buy something,” said Glauber. “The friend replied that he had already bought a sweatshirt from Green Street last week.”

Their business plan keeps the costumers coming. 

“They’re not a brick and mortar store,” said Casey Roeder, a senior marketing communication major. “They buy directly from the designers and manufacturers. It’s easier for them to meet the demand of their customers by adjusting their inventory to stock the truck with what’s most popular amongst their customers.”

Roeder also said she appreciates Green Street’s use of local brands. 

Not only has Green Street been upping the ante on its merchandise, Cheung and Travis have been broadening their marketing strategy as well.

“We just signed with LevelUp, and we’ve been a merchant for about two weeks. People have been using it which is really cool,” Cheung said. LevelUp is an iPhone app which features certain merchants, and helps buyers makes purchases without having to open up your wallet. 

Cheung said they are also starting a holiday collaboration with one of their brands, Annie Mulz, featuring T-shirts and hoodies that come in a travel bag. The items will premiere Dec. 16 in the truck and on the Annie Mulz website. A party at Tasty Burger sponspored by Pabst Blue Ribbon will be held in honor of the collaboration. 

With his business up and running, Cheung finds the hardest part to be balancing his personal life with his street salesman life.

“It’s been more stressful than anything,” he said. “Dividing my time between school, friends, my girlfriend, and the business has been really tough. Good thing I can’t live without stress.”

The pressure of running a business is countered by the endless support Cheung said he receives. Countless passersby look inside the truck or stop for a chat. And most are looking forward to what’s next.

“The longer they’re out on the streets the more popular they’re going to become. It’s going to be so cool to see the buzz travel out to the suburbs and see the demand for GSV to grow outside the city. It would be cool to see GSV’s in other cities to,” said Roeder. She would specifically like to see them come to New York City, her hometown.

“I see everything getting better,” said Cheung. “I see our accounts getting more exclusive, our buying getting better, and I see our impact on the city getting more powerful and widespread.”