SYRACUSE — Scholars & Champs — a new retail store offering apparel, fashion, art, and vintage items catering to Syracuse Orange sports fans — recently opened in downtown Syracuse.
The new shop, located at 310 S. Salina St., is the brainchild of business owner, Bert “The Shirt” Aufsesser, a Syracuse University alum and Southern California native.
Scholars & Champs formally opened on April 12 with a ribbon-cutting event. The store sells new and vintage Orange apparel and merchandise, including t-shirts, jerseys, and hats. It also offers gear from other sports teams, as well as original art work, sport coats, dress shoes, and much more.
“It all started because when I went to a game or event and wanted to wear something that was good quality, unique and really stood out in the crowd, I couldn’t find anything,” says Aufsesser. “I’ve always been extremely passionate about Syracuse and have collected vintage pieces for over 20 years so I figured the city needed something like this. I combined my three passions of fashion, art, and vintage.”
The store is about 1,100 square feet and Aufsesser leases it from VIP Structures of Syracuse. He financed the business launch himself after working in fashion/retail for 20 years. “I had bought everything I could. The time was right for a store of my own,” he says.
Scholars & Champs gets its merchandise from national vendors like Mitchell & Ness Nostalgia Co., Reyn Spooner, Long Lost Tees, and Vast, according to Aufsesser. “My local designers are Compas, Checkz N Balances, and Illumine. My selection will expand in the fall,” he adds.
Aufsesser looks for items made in the U.S. and not mass produced. “What differentiates my store from others is that I serve customers from age 9 to 109. I look for things that are unique,” he says. Before starting Scholars & Champs, Aufsesser created a website called ilovesyracusevintage.com to identify himself as a vintage collector and connect with like-minded people. The site sold select vintage Syracuse University apparel
Aufsesser graduated from Syracuse University in 2000 with a bachelor’s degree in retail management and then spent time on the east and west coasts working in high-end fashion, retail, and boutique advertising. His first job was at Nordstrom in Connecticut. He says he started on the sales floor but was quickly promoted to management. He also later worked at Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue, and Bloomingdale’s in Southern California as a department manager, per his LinkedIn profile.
Aufsesser is the sole owner and main employee of Scholars & Champs, though he employs about five Syracuse University students part time.