Thursday, May 19, 2022

More Than Vintage: Vintage clothing store and café built by students, for students

April 28, 2022
<p>Michigan State sophomore and founder of More Than Vintage, Louis Azor (right), sits outside his new store location with best friend and general manager Noah Hurley (left) on Mar. 16, 2022.</p>

Michigan State sophomore and founder of More Than Vintage, Louis Azor (right), sits outside his new store location with best friend and general manager Noah Hurley (left) on Mar. 16, 2022.

Photo by Devin Anderson-Torrez | The State News

More Than Vintage's owner Louis Azor and general manager — or “Right Hand Man” — Noah Hurley’s vintage store and coffee shop is the first of its kind to arrive in East Lansing.

Their vision was to create a mix of an ’80s and ’90s-inspired modern style shop and aspires to open at late hours, but most importantly keep a cozy-home feel to serve the East Lansing and MSU community as sophomores at MSU themselves.

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Azor and Hurley's upbringing

Azor moved around frequently, from growing up in Philadelphia, to Detroit to live with his aunt and then Macomb County before his freshman year of high school. However, he was shortly kicked out of his aunt’s house.

“I was basically a normal kid, right, but they would just think that I was acting out,” Azor said. 

She decided to bring Azor back in during the summer, but he was then kicked out of the house again. However, one of his friends invited Azor into their house, and he lived with them starting in ninth grade until he turned 18.

“They didn’t adopt me, but they were my guardians,” Azor said. “I call them my mom and dad, he’s my brother, and they take me in basically now.”

Hurley grew up in metro Detroit and had a fascination for sneaker culture and streetwear. Starting only in middle school, he began a business reselling clothing and shoes while frequently selling at sneaker conventions.

Azor always knew he had an entrepreneurial mindset growing up. After writing “Find Your Mind,” a motivational book, following a trip to California in the summer of 2021, the writing process inspired him to pursue More Than Vintage, or MTV.

The two attended the same high school but weren’t close until the end of their junior year when both were voted to be student section leaders.

“Me and (Noah) ended up coming here together, and we’ve been best friends literally ever since,” Azor said.

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Beginning phases through a stranger and grit

Initially, Azor envisioned a homey-feel coffee shop, coming from his childhood in having trouble finding a place for him to call home. However, Azor also knew that he had a passion for art and fashion.

“We’re living in the next generation right now; why not make it more innovative?” Azor said. “Let’s combine the two. No one’s ever seen that before.”

While sitting in his car on Nov. 15, 2021, Azor envisioned MTV’s goal to be a hybrid coffee lounge and vintage store to feed all MSU students’ morning sips and fashion pieces.

“Ever since I had that idea it was just like school, and in my free time, I was figuring out how could I get in this place, and it was like that literally every single day,” Azor said. “Hours on hours on hours running around trying to get money, talking to investors, banks.”

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When Azor pitched the idea to Hurley, he was supportive and has consistently been by Azor’s side from the start.

“Knowing Lou, I know who he is as a person, and if anybody were able to do it, it would be Lou,” Hurley said. “He’s motivated. He got that entrepreneurial mindset. He’s capable. … When I heard it with Lou I was like, ‘Okay, this is Louis,’ so I knew it was for real.”

While passing Division Street in downtown East Lansing last December, Azor noticed the location and began making calls. Although touring other potential places, he decided on the Division Street location being steps off campus and its admirable price.

“My subconscious was literally like, ‘Dude, you know you’re going to regret not doing this,’” Azor said. “And I know I would’ve already if I didn’t because everything’s going way faster according to plan.”

Paying off the expenses for MTV as two sophomores in college was a big question for them. Azor says he was constantly manifesting and praying to God on finding the right way to start the shop construction. 

“It was kind of like, ‘Alright, Imma leave everything in your hands and you can work this out for me, and I trust and believe in you, like straight-up,’” Azor said.

However, a chance bonding over a Philadelphia hat that Azor wore at Foster Coffee Company fulfilled just that.

A man approached him at the coffee shop and they continued to talk for two hours. Azor began learning more about him, attended the church that he pastors, went out for dinners and pitched the idea of MTV to him.

Eventually, he gained faith in Azor to start up MTV and gave him money to begin the project.

“If he was not in my life, I would not have done this,” Azor said. “He really gave me that seed, ‘You know who you are. You can literally do this. This is God telling you.’”

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MTV's progression and community-based values

After buying the property, Azor and Hurley expressed how fast the past few months have progressed for the shop.

“Ever since we really got the keys it has kind of been like up and at ‘em, just going, like what’s next,” Hurley said. “Checking stuff off the list, moving forward, hauling a--.”

Azor also credits Hurley for the constant encouragement of his dreams of constructing MTV.

“If I didn’t have that, I would not have done it at all,” Azor said. “He’s the one person that I could talk to, like actually be open-minded and logical to things. … This is destiny right now.”

Overall, Azor says he lives through and keeps constant trust in God’s actions.

Although Azor and Hurley are beginning MTV in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, they haven’t seen many setbacks except the increase in coffee prices. There were occasional obstacles, but the two didn’t let the difficulties delay their progress.

“You just got to take them head-on, just run right through them,” Hurley said. “If there was no obstacles everybody would do it.”

Azor acknowledges the bumps but attributes their “next-generation innovation” to the overwhelming community of college students that was built around them.

“A big thing for us is to be inclusive with the rest of the community and everyone in it,” Hurley said. “We want to be welcoming kind of thing. Everyone’s allowed around here. I want people to feel comfortable here, feel like they’re at home almost in a way.”

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Stepping forward with MTV and their hope to inspire

The two look forward to grand opening day, but specifically next fall with plans of a full barista-café bar.

“It’s been a journey a lot of the way so far,” Hurley said. “It’s really not the start until that day. Just having everybody there, collective everyone together kind of experiencing it with us. Just knowing that’s not the first step, but a big checkpoint, like the take-off point. It’s just the beginning.”

Although the two are planning to continue as students for the next two years, MTV aspires to expand at the University of Michigan’s campus in Ann Arbor next.

“Opportunities (are) limitless with what we’re set out to do,” Azor said. “We’re waiting and see. We could be very surprised with what’s going to happen.”

Hurley hopes that MTV can inspire the young generation and encourages them to pursue their bright ideas.

“One of the bigger things that is just overlooked is confidence,” Hurley said. “A lot of people lack, or they don’t (have) the ability to just pull the trigger or do it and just tell themselves that I’ll do it. That leap of faith is really scary, and that’s what deters people from doing it a lot of the time.”

“Also at the same time, you have to make sure that you love what you want to do,” Azor added. “You have to absolutely know. I cried for it. I literally cried to be in this building. … It drives you to the point where you’re up all night just researching, just doing your homework for it. That’s the way it’ll get it done because you have to believe in yourself that much. It’s not easy at all, it’s not easy at all, but it can get done if you put your mind to it and believe. It’s as simple as that.”

Azor and Hurley are inviting any students that also sell clothes to be put on sale in MTV, including MSU Vintage, owned by advertising management senior Jared Perlin. They will also be doing a buy-sell-trade on sneakers or other products.

“This is a place thought of people, for the people,” Hurley said. “A lot of people’s intentions are just dollar signs behind it, but with here more so it’s actually providing merchandise and stuff that people want.”

MTV’s opening day is Friday, April 29th from 1 to 8 p.m., but will be open on weekdays from 8 a.m. to midnight.

To keep up with MTV’s updates, follow them on Instagram.

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