Holyoke’s Paper City Clothing unveils storefront redecorated by local youth

  • Jay Alvarado, owner of Jizay’s clothing store in Holyoke, wraps a vintage Nike Air Jordan sneaker in plastic before displaying it at the Sneaker Culture event hosted by Paper City Clothing Company, Saturday, in Holyoke. FOR THE GAZETTE/Sabato Visconti

  • Paper City Clothing Company co-owner Fernando Goffe compares Air Jordans with Jizay’s Clothing Store owner Jay Alvarado, during the Sneaker Mixer event hosted by Paper City Clothing Company, Saturday in Holyoke, MA. Sabato Visconti—Copyright.2021

  • Paper City Clothing Company co-owner Carlos Peña talks with customers during a Sneaker Culture event unveiling a new store redesign led by Holyoke youths, Saturday. FOR THE GAZETTE/Sabato Visconti

For the Gazette
Published: 8/8/2021 8:37:54 PM

HOLYOKE — For the past few weeks, Paper City Clothing Company’s storefront has been closed. White paper covered the store’s windows as teens and young adults worked to give the store a total makeover. Saturday, the paper was gone, and the store’s colorful new storefront was on display for the first time.

To celebrate the redecorating, the company held a Sneaker Culture event on Saturday, where attendees were able to buy, sell and trade their sneaker collections. The event also had a live DJ and refreshments from Crave Food Truck.

The Sneaker Culture event is in line with Paper City Clothing Company’s mission: to support teens and young adults in Holyoke and help them build communities around their interests (like sneaker collecting).

“It’s become a trend where kids are trading, buying and selling sneakers now,” said Fernando Goffe, who works at the store and helped organize the event. “So, I think it’s good to have a marketplace that they can feel like they’re part of.”

In addition to creating a sneaker marketplace, the event is also meant to celebrate the work of high school students and recent graduates in the YouthWorks program, who have spent their summer working at the company. The state-funded program partners teens and young adults with local businesses to help them gain paid work experience.

“I feel that the most important part is the work experience and mentorship that they get here, but also, just having males of color in their life that are doing something important and helping them to do something, too,” said Carlos Peña, the business’s owner and founder.

The idea to redo the storefront came from the students of the YouthWorks program, who were skeptical of the previous design.

When the students first saw the store, “they actually looked at it and said they didn’t like it; that they wouldn’t buy anything from it,” Peña said. “So, as older men, we were not into that style or scene. It was important for us to hear what they had to say and roll with the punches.”

“We were all basically given full power over the storefront,” said Edwin Aviles, a member of the YouthWorks program who recently graduated from Holyoke High School. “They said, ‘Our store is your store.’”

Peña founded Paper City Clothing Company in 2016, with hopes of creating not only a place to showcase his screen printing designs but also a hub for community and culture.

Since then, he has been finding innovative ways to incorporate the community into his store. One of these ways is utilizing the large space behind his storefront as an art gallery to showcase local artists, pre-COVID-19.

“We’re here to support the neighborhood and we support each other,” Goffe said.

The company also features some pieces by local designers in its storefront, to help them gain exposure and grow their own brands.

“We invite a lot of community designers to come in, to design stuff and place it in the store,” Goffe said.

Goffe and Peña hope to put Holyoke on the map, while growing their screen-printing company. Goffe is so invested in the city and the company’s mission that he drives an hour to work at the store from his home in Connecticut.

“When you say ‘why Holyoke,’ we say ‘why not Holyoke?’” Goffe said.

Goffe wants Holyoke to be “the next big thing,” and he plans to continue investing in the city. “When I’m 65, even if I’m not living here, I want to press a button on my computer and say, ‘look at that city now. It’s changed, and somebody believed that there would be a change,’” he said. “So, you know, so I won’t lose faith in that notion.”

Sign up for our free email updates
Daily Hampshire Gazette Headlines
Daily Hampshire Gazette Contests & Promotions
Daily Hampshire Gazette Evening Top Reads
Daily Hampshire Gazette Breaking News
Daily Hampshire Gazette Obits
Daily Hampshire Gazette Sports
Daily Hampshire Gazette PM Updates
Daily Hampshire Gazette Weekly Top Stories
Valley Advocate Newsletter
Daily Hampshire Gazette Dining & Entertainment


Support Local Journalism

Subscribe to the Daily Hampshire Gazette, your leading source for news in the Pioneer Valley.

Daily Hampshire Gazette Office

23 Service Center Road
Northampton, MA 01060


Copyright © 2021 by H.S. Gere & Sons, Inc.
Terms & Conditions - Privacy Policy