“There’s a whole bunch of folks who like N.C. State.”
–Mario Ciardella, owner, Red and White Shop
by Jessie Ammons
photograph by Travis Long
Mario Ciardella’s priorities aren’t black and white; they’re red and white. “We try to have the largest selection of N.C. State merchandise out there,” he says. That’s been Ciardella’s goal since he worked in the wholesale collegiate business as a manufacturer’s representative to dozens of regional schools and athletics programs. As an N.C. State graduate, he never hid his allegiance: “I wished I could sell only my N.C. State stuff.”
Finally, at the urging of his late close friend Cindy Sears, who was director of trademark licensing at N.C. State, he helped open Red and White Shop. At first, it was in a temporary spot in Crabtree Valley Mall. The store moved to its current location at Ridgewood Shopping Center in 2008, and Ciardella became the sole owner in 2012. What differentiates the shop from the N.C. State bookstore is its selection and its customer base, Ciardella says. “We’re alumni-driven.” They come for tailgating and gameday equipment, including chairs, tents, and seat cushions, as well as sportswear and children’s items. Ciardella carries tailored ladies’ wear and golf shirts with a wide array of logos in addition to the classic blocky S. Three of his four full-time staff members are alumni, and all of his part-time employees are current students. “We are the only (N.C. State) store that is locally owned by an N.C. State graduate,” he says.
Ciardella’s only complaint is that he now has to miss many home sports games to work in the shop: “It still hurts me a little every time.” Recently, Red and White Shop doubled its square footage and inventory, and Ciardella says the store’s getting excited for fall’s football season. “We have a tent out and a whole tailgate experience set up. People can come in, sit in chairs, and try them out.” –J.A.