With a polished collection of vintage clothing and accessories, MidNorth Mercantile—which debuted at last month's NorthernGRADE menswear market—proves that well-made clothing should improve with age. Mike Ader, better known to his followers as "Mustache Mike," is one half of MidNorth Mercantile, a vintage dry goods store based in Minneapolis. A barber at Heimie's Haberdashery by day, Ader restyles and revitalizes vintage items by night—often extensively tailoring and re-cutting each piece to fit modern men. Now with new business partner, Sean Johnson, he has built a highly-selective vintage brand that is as elegant as it is clever. We talked to Ader about the origins of MidNorth Mercantile, and his flair for giving vintage items new appeal.
What do you find to be so special about collecting vintage goods?
Vintage runs through my veins—it's a lifestyle for me. I continue to collect these products because they have purpose and history. I believe that if people don't continue to hunt these assets down, they will get lost, thrown out and eventually destroyed.
Can you explain the process of re-crafting?
Re-purposing and re-crafting encompass a few things. If we find a garment or other item that is either not sellable due to irreparable damage or that we cannot source new material to fix it with, or one that is unwearable due to cut or style, we then decide if it is a good candidate for our re-crafting service. That decision is based on what the garment originally was, whether or not there is sturdy material left on it, and what that material consists of. The purpose is to try to reuse all the materials in some form, whether that's in constructing something new out of old material, using the material to repair a less damaged garment to make it sellable, or using old and new materials together on a project like the Candy Stripe Tote.
The Candy Stripe tote debuted at NortherGRADE. How did you come up with the idea, and how was it received?
Well, I've been collecting Hudson Bay and old US wool blankets over the years. I had a bunch of them that I would call "unsellable," and instead of just letting them go to waste, I talked it over with Sean and we came up with the idea of a tote. Sean spent a few years with RRL and while there he saw many vintage blankets and other damaged goods being crafted into new products, including bags. Even before that he had been turning damaged vintage goods into new things, so the tote creation was a very natural process for us; with a strong knowledge of construction, we were able to fully customize our own take on a re-crafted blanket bag. People were definitely excited and hyped over the tote. We got a lot of great feedback and even some ideas on how to make it better and more user friendly. Even though we've received several offers on the prototype, we've decided to hold onto it for now. We will be making a refined version in the coming months that will coincide with our Tradesman Bag Program.
Minnesota has a great appreciation for vintage brands, but what makes MidNorth Mercantile unique?
MidNorth stands out in this market for many of reasons. Our attention to detail and overall aesthetic is a large part of why we are one of the best vintage dealers around. We curate and build collections around what is current in the menswear market, and constantly change up our inventory to what the consumer is looking for each season.
You're also a barber and have been for some time now. Can you talk a little about that?
I have been cutting hair since about ninth grade. I used to cut my buddies' hair after class in high school, and continued to cut out of my house with dreams of opening up my own shop. At that time, I found out about barber school and licensing laws. I became a registered barber in 2011, and plan to open a barber shop within MidNorth Mercantile this coming year.