Johnny Cupcakes CEO Johnny Earle had no idea what he was in for when, in 2005, he moved his clothing company from a hole-in-the-wall location to Newbury Street, home to some of Boston's most upscale clothing stores.

"I was spending $700 a month on rent in my hometown, [and] decided to take a risk--to spend more than $7,000 a month on Newbury Street," Earle says.

What he did know was that his store was going to look completely different from any other shop on the street.

Johnny Cupcakes, in fact, doesn't sell cupcakes. But Earle planned to make the T-shirt shop look--and smell--like a bakery. He displayed his T-shirts on trays, accompanied by nutrition fact labels. For decoration he bought industrial mixers. He even placed vanilla air fresheners around the store to make it smell like frosting.

"I could have saved a tremendous amount of money by going to Ikea and purchasing inexpensive displays," Earle explains. "But I decided to spend all of the money I had to create an experience."

Come opening day, Earle's decision to go all out proved to be worthwhile. More than 400 people had camped out for the unveiling of the shop. 

"Even kids that used to make fun of me were in line with money," Earle says. "That opening day we made more than three month's rent in one day." 

About two years later, in 2007, Earle hit the $1 million dollar revenue mark. That's when he knew he was onto something.

"We can do it independently. We don't have to get investors. We don't have to sell out to these chain stores. We can create our own experiences within our retail stores," Earle recalls thinking. "And that's what we did."

For more on how Earle developed his unique clothing brand, check out the video below. 

Published on: Nov 14, 2014