Teen brothers, streetwear store owners look to inspire non-traditional career paths

Braiden Heath, left, holds a $1,900 pair of “Lemonade” Air Force 1 sneakers on Tuesday, July 5. Braiden and his brother Nic Heath, right, opened their streetwear store NW Drip in Salem in July 2021. (Ardeshir Tabrizian/Salem Reporter)

For two teens looking to sell streetwear to their classmates, word traveled fast at McNary High School.

Braiden and Nic Heath in April 2018 started the Instagram account “NW Drip,” where they posted clothes they “flipped” by buying and reselling them locally. The brothers were 13 and 15 at the time.

Three years later, the name is now affixed to their storefront on Northeast Lancaster Drive. 

Now 17 and 19, the Heaths for the past year have sold, bought, traded and consigned streetwear in Salem, with a mix of used and new products. 

They are fashionable, casual clothes often inspired by skate culture and hip-hop. The catalog includes Jordans, skate brands, some vintage items and occasionally pieces from high-end brands such as Louis Vuitton or Gucci.

The average T-shirt runs about $80, but customers can also find a jacket at the shop that costs $800, or a $1,900 pair of yellow “Lemonade” Air Force 1 sneakers made by artist Virgil Abloh, who died last year.

The brothers said they hope to eventually open more store locations in Oregon.

The Heaths as young teens often hung out with older high school students and accompanied them on a 2016 trip to Los Angeles, where they were fascinated by the culture.

“Everybody’s into fashion, there’s just all this stuff everywhere,” Nic said. “So that’s kind of what we wanted to bring here, because we would never see anybody with cool clothes on and appreciate the clothes you’re wearing or something like that.”

With a more gothic style, Braiden said he prefers to wear “loud stuff” — big graphics, a quote or something else that draws reactions out of people. His brother Nic’s style is more bright colors and athleisure, like sweatpants or track pants, training jackets, and Air Maxes or other Nikes.

Braiden Heath holds a jacket for sale at NW Drip on Tuesday, July 5. (Ardeshir Tabrizian/Salem Reporter)

The shop’s roots began through social media and word of mouth. Braiden and Nic Heath would post photos of clothes that customers, often other teens, messaged them directly to buy. They posted and sold whatever they could get their hands on related to streetwear and brands like Supreme in the Salem area, in addition to reselling some items on the website StockX.

“We weren’t doing good at first, honestly. It was our first time doing it and we would buy like jackets that wouldn’t go for much,” Braiden said. “So it really took a while for us to learn what people want and what items do well and what items don’t, and then just learn the market from there.”

In October 2020, the pair hosted their own pop-up in their hometown of Keizer alongside vintage vendors. 

Eventually, the business grew to where their bedrooms could no longer fit their inventory.

“I think we kind of felt like we were reaching a cap when it came to Instagram. It felt like it was just getting harder to grow, because we already had quite a decent following and customer base locally,” Braiden said. “It was just harder to get exposure, so we felt like the store was the next step.

The Heaths said their parents have always been supportive, but it took opening their physical store before their parents let Braiden complete high school online. Nic graduated from McNary High School last year.

The building at 4771 Lancaster Dr N.E., #115 is brand new and was still being built when they started leasing it, which meant they had to wait two months to get it up and running on July 10, 2021. Over three days, they filled the store with T-shirts, jackets, sneakers and skateboards.

“We didn’t have to get any loans from any banks or anything,” Braiden said. “So we just pretty much just waited and got to a point to where we were able to open up.”

NW Drip, located at 4771 Lancaster Dr N.E., #115 in Salem on Tuesday, July 7. (Ardeshir Tabrizian/Salem Reporter)

In opening the shop, the Heaths said they also wanted to build better relationships with and get to know customers, having previously spent a bulk of their time pacing while texting or answering Instagram messages. 

“It’s a longer interaction when they come in here than we just meet up,” Braiden said.

One aspect of their business that’s changed since opening the store is customers now bring items in to sell, which has helped create more variety. “You’ll get used stuff, you’ll get super old stuff you don’t see usually,” Nic said.

They said they started young in part to show others they can also take non-traditional career paths toward financial freedom.

“We would both do business classes in high school, we just didn’t see a point in it. We’re already doing it,” Nic said. “It’s not even like how the textbooks are, things are a lot different.”

Braiden said he would advise other young entrepreneurs to not seek instant gratification. He and Nic don’t pay themselves, instead living with their parents and reinvesting everything they earn back into the business.

“We haven’t gotten that much out of it, because we’re just trying to grow,” he said. “Just being okay with working for something and not getting something back.”

“Work for the goal and not right now,” Nic added. “Always remember what you’re working toward.”

Contact reporter Ardeshir Tabrizian: [email protected] or 503-929-3053.

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