Something Ventured: VilleSide Customs

VilleSide CustomsPhoto courtesy of VilleSide Customs, LLC.

VilleSide’s owners have served the city for seven years from their storefront in Magoun Square, which started as a retail-only shop selling clothing, hats, and accessories from favorite brands including Silly Wabbit, Pretty Authentic People, and Villen. 

Now, alongside their selection of local Somerville and Boston brands—including a house brand named after the business—VilleSide offers shoppers the option to customize their apparel with in-house vinyl printing, screen-printing, or embroidery.

“We try to cultivate a family environment,” explains Jabir Nadler Ducasse, one of the two owners. “We’ve built a very welcoming place. I try not to be robotic, not cutting to the chase of ‘OK, it’s all about money, what T-shirt do you want.’ That is what makes us different from any other shop where you can just walk in and buy a T-shirt.” 

Ducasse and co-owner Marckendy Jean say they have taken direction from local customers asking for an individualized experience. 

“We wanted to give something back to our community, so we started a T-shirt brand, VilleSide Clothing, at first,” Ducasse explains. “Different types of customers started coming in and requesting different things, ‘Can you add my name, can you add a number to the back.’ I’d seen there was an opportunity.”

The branded clothing and hats that deck the walls of VilleSide also convey Ducasse and Jean’s appreciation for design, and have been carefully selected for their special appeal to all customers with a love for the city. 

“Villen has always been a staple brand of Somerville,” Ducasse says. “I can have somebody who’s 50 years old come in here and request a Villen T-shirt, and I also can have a high school kid who says ‘You know what, I like that VilleSide logo, let me have that on a hoodie.’”

Ducasse and Jean say VilleSide works first and foremost on providing customer service that makes shoppers feel at ease the moment they walk through the door. Much of this work involves getting to know each customer on a first-name basis, even as VilleSide has grown from managing small, personal accounts, to taking on midsize and even corporate work

“They’re all good people, so we show them love and they show us love back,” Jean explains. “We make sure the communication is on point with no issues. Overall, we emphasize the one-on-one with the customers, learning their names, giving them the opportunity to have options, making sure they’re satisfied. If they do leave, they come back because of the conversation.”

VilleSide also participates in local events with other vendors and organizations, like East Somerville’s Carnaval and Mystic Learning Center toy drives, setting up a booth with a selection of discounted merchandise from the shop. Community events help VilleSide to not only create connections within the city, but also sustain lasting local relationships, the owners say. 

Ducasse and Jean say that once locals get hooked on the friendly, laid back atmosphere of VilleSide, they return to the store time and time again.

“It gives more value just knowing people,” Jean says. “We put a smile on people’s faces when they come in.”

Villeside Customs is located at 491 Broadway. For more information, call (857) 251-8405 or visit villesidecustoms.com. 

This story originally appeared in the Voices of the City issue of Scout Somerville, which is available for free at more than 200 locations throughout the city or by subscription.

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