NEW PALESTINE — They rustle through the big plastic bags and pull out some of their newest finds.
A Chicago Blackhawks windbreaker. A Hoosiers crewneck pullover. An old Pacers jersey.
New Palestine High School senior Lilly Schwier and her younger brothers, Tucker and Ezra, have picked up each piece from a thrift store, washed and readied them for resale, posting the photos online in hopes a little nostalgia will pique a buyer’s interest.
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It’s a business created and perfected by their late older brother Andrew Schwier, who died early last fall, Lilly Schwier said. He built this company — Vintage 317 — and she and her brothers have chosen to continue it in his absence, in his memory.
Now, the old clothes he left behind, the sweatshirts and tees emblazoned with the logos of professional sports teams or adorning the faces cartoon characters anyone who lived through the ’80s and ’90s would fondly recognize, will help pay his siblings’ way on a church mission trip to Mexico next month, where they’ll visit with and build homes for people in need.
It seems fitting, in a way, to use their brother’s business, his legacy, to help others, his siblings say. Drew Schwier was the one who brought them to Brookville Road Community Church and encouraged his siblings to get involved in the youth programs offered through the church.
And they’ll keep the company going, even after they return from Mazatlan, they say. Carrying on the company their brother worked so hard to create has given them a place to channel their grief, helping them feel closer to him, to each other.
Andrew Schwier — “Drew” to his friends and family — was shot and killed outside his home during a suspected robbery in September in Indianapolis, just west of the Hancock County line. He was 26 years old.
Police still don’t know much about what happened to Drew: witnesses saw people fleeing from near his home that night and a car rushing from the scene after a gun was fired; but no culprit has ever been identified.
Drew Schwier, a 2009 New Palestine High School graduate and member of Brookville Road Community Church, was a self-taught entrepreneur. Though he worked an administrative job full time for the Department of Veterans Affairs, he used his love of sports memorabilia to supplement his income.
He created Vintage 317 in 2015 with a simple business model, his siblings said: he’d comb thrift stores across Central Indiana for the ’80s- and ’90s-era crewneck sweatshirts, windbreakers and faded tees that he and his buddies craved, clean them up if needed and resell them for a small profit.
He built a following online, and he turned the garage of his home on far east side of Indianapolis into as much of a brick-and-mortar store as he could, packing it with racks and racks of clothes and inviting shoppers in to have their pick of the inventory he’d collected.
He visited trade shows in the area regularly, packing up the gear he had available for sale and taking it on road, which gave him a chance to meet others who shared his passion.
He loved doing it, and he was so good at it, his family said.
A few months after he died, Lilly Schwier, 18, said her father asked if she had any interest in continuing Vintage 317. After all, she’d always loved to take her friends over to Drew’s to pick out new clothes; perhaps it was something she could do to in his honor, he father had said.
She agreed and roped in 16-year-old Tucker and 13-year-old Ezra to help.
Together, they taught themselves the business just as Drew had. They recalled the conversations they’d each had with him about where he’d shopped and what he’d looked for, and they consulted an online community of other sellers also peddling vintage gear for help and advice.
Around Thanksgiving, they took to the Vintage 317 Instagram page — the platform their brother used most often to sell — and announced to his nearly 12,000 followers they’d be taking the business over.
In the first few months of their adventure, they’ve learned a lot, Lilly Schwier said, particularly about customer service and the best way to interact with their shoppers online — everything from how best to respond to messages to which hashtags get the most attention.
With some help from their parents, Randy and Beth Schwier, they’ve learned the best brands to buy and which to skip over, Ezra said.
And they’ve discovered which logos are the best sellers and which teams have the biggest followings, Tucker said. They know Pacers and Indiana University gear will sell quickly, and anything featuring a Disney character is a tough find but worth the hunt.
And they think about their big brother every day.
He loved his family and always included his younger siblings in everything he did, Ezra said. Even though nearly 10 years separated them, Drew always invited them to part of his life, whether it was the business or for fun. He’d take them to Pacers games or to watch Indy Eleven play or to pick through clothes at thrifts stores.
The last time they saw him alive, he was doing work for Vintage 317. He’d covered their parents’ kitchen counter in shipping labels he’d just had printed and was getting ready to pack some gear in boxes to be mailed.
He could make even the most mundane situations fun, Tucker said. He was always grinning. Always laughing. And that’s what they remember from those last few days.
For now, the money Lilly, Tucker and Ezra collect through their sales is helping cover the cost of each attending a mission trip to Mazatlan, Mexico – tickets run about $1,600 each, according to their church’s website.
The spring trip to Mexico will be Lilly’s second visit to the country but a first for Tucker and Ezra. They’re excited for the experiences it’ll bring, they say.
And they’ll be there together, as their brother always wanted it.
Once they return from Mexico, they’ll keep Vintage 317 going, they say. They dream of taking pop-up shops around Central Indiana to introduce new shoppers to their brother’s gear, to grow the brand he worked so hard to build. After all, the business is where they’ve learned to find joy in a terrible time.
“I just think about how much fun he had with it and how much fun it was for him,” Lilly said. “I’m just trying to find happiness through it. This is what he loved, and others loved watching him do it.”
“I’m just trying to find happiness through it. This is what he loved, and others loved watching him do it.”
— Lilly Schwier, on her late brother’s sports memorabilia business, Vintage 317.