LITTLE ITALY — By age 5, Marco DiPaolo was chopping lemons with a “real knife” in his family’s Italian lemonade shop on Taylor Street.
Fast forward 15 years and the 20-year-old has opened his own business — Mint Clothing, 1058 W. Taylor St., just a few doors down from the DiPaolo-owned Mario’s Italian Lemonade. Mint on Taylor carries streetwear brands and specializes in custom T-shirt orders.
Mint may be Marco DiPaolo’s business, but his family had a hand in creating the Little Italy retail store. Marco opened Mint Clothing in a storefront owned by his father, Mario “Skippy” DiPaolo.
Marco has “been talking T-shirts since grammar school,” his 65-year-old father said Friday.
“When he came to me, I was for it,” Mario DiPaolo said. “I would have rather him taken over the lemonade stand, but you know what they say — people in hell want a cold glass of water.”
Marco’s brother, 25-year-old Mario J. DiPaolo, came up with the store’s name. The four letters in Mint are meant to symbolize the four stars in the Chicago flag.
About half of Mint’s stock is popular streetwear brands — including Mitchell & Ness, Crooks & Castles, DFYNT and Born Fly — and the rest is by Chicago designers or made in house.
Much of the merchandise is influenced by the city. Some shirts feature the Chicago flag or Chicago sports stars, and a Mint original T-shirt showcases a Little Italy scene special to DiPaolo — a vintage photo of Mario’s Italian Lemonade in 1967. T-shirts range from $15 to $45.
With school back in swing at neighboring UIC and St. Ignatius College Prep, business has been “really good,” DiPaolo said at the store Friday. DiPaolo offers a 20 percent discount at Mint Clothing to UIC and St. Ignatius students.
The 2012 St. Ignatius grad is still learning what it means to be his own boss. Marco DiPaolo’s next class will be an accounting one, he said.
“We’re businessmen,” his dad said. “Not accountants, we’re people persons.”
The store is open noon to 8 p.m. daily.
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