OVIEDO, Fla. – A pair of twin brothers are making a difference in their Central Florida community one sock at a time.
What started as a dream has now become a reality for Marcus and Mario Taylor. They own The Sock Gallery, which is a unique business selling personalized socks and masks. The business has grown into its very own empire serving customers and well-known celebrities.
The Memphis natives moved to Central Florida with a vision and have now made a name for themselves in their community.
Their business started in 2015 with a small kiosk inside the Oviedo Mall. After one year, they moved into their second kiosk in the Altamonte Springs Mall and then moved onto their own brand of socks, creating the option for customers to customize their own socks. By 2017, they had their own store in the Oviedo Mall. Their 1,700-square-foot store allowed them the space they needed for production and equipment which gave shoppers the luxury to have their socks designed the same day.
Being twins inspired the idea for the business concept; they wanted something that symbolized them and said that “great things come in pairs and every pair tells a story.”
“We wanted to create something for ourselves so that kind of drove us into socks, you know," Marcus Taylor said.
Being twins has really helped their business model. That twin telepathy is a real thing and it happens all the time. The brothers said that one of them will think of something that needs to be done, and by the time the other asks about it, it’s already completed.
“We definitely build a stronger team by working together and being born together, so that kind of helps us out a lot,” Marcus Taylor said.
Their business really took off when they started engaging with the entertainment and sports industry. Not to mention, building a loyal customer base by truly connecting with every person who stepped foot inside their store.
One of their regular customers is NBA great Shaquille O’Neal.
“We woke up one day and he had a message from Shaq and he said ‘Yo, I need some masks, how fast can you get my masks ready?’ And we ended up taking them to his house. So, we took like 20 masks to his house,” said Marcus Taylor.
Shaq went on to wear those masks on national television.
They have also designed socks for other celebrities including, Za' Darius Smith, Penny Hardaway, Deon Cole, Chad “Ochocinco” Johnson, Floyd Mayweather, and other notable names.
Marcus and Mario said at first many people couldn’t believe they were going into the sock business, but they had the passion and drive behind their company while recognizing the need for socks. They stuck with it and haven’t stopped since.
“At the very beginning, people were like ‘these guys are crazy, what do you mean they’re going to start a sock company’ when we were building the store, a lot of people were like The Sock Gallery I would like to see how long that’s going to last,” Mario said.
By word of mouth, they created a wave and people kept asking where they got their socks from and it became a trend soon after that.
They like to call their business a sentimental one, creating memories with each sock they sell. They do it for the smiles and reactions rather than for the money. This fuels their passion for their company every single day.
Marcus and Mario built a special bond with a Central Florida boy, named Joseph Tidd who was born without a left hand. The boy and his family came into the shop every Sunday. He told the twins about Carson Pickett, who plays defense for the Orlando Pride and is also missing a hand, just like him.
They were so moved by this boy and his larger than life personality that they felt compelled to do something special for him. So, they reached out to Joseph’s mom and told her that they wanted to gift their family socks.
The socks had a picture of Pickett and Joseph at the soccer game on them, one that went viral in 2019. The brothers told News 6 that when he saw the socks for the first time, he looked down at his arm in amazement – he was in awe. It was a very touching moment for everyone.
“For a small kid, his energy was so strong,” Mario Taylor said. “To see how he moved, and to see his spirit, it’s just amazing.”
The following week, the little boy and his family took a pair to the soccer player and they have bonded with that family ever since.
It brings the brothers so much joy to see how the customers react when they open their socks for the first time. This is because they are devoted to their business and truly care about each and every one of their customers.
“But with socks and the people that shop with us come with so many amazing personalities that help us grow along the way which has been amazing. And I think that’s what really made the journey special is all the unique people that we meet and we never expected that we never saw it coming” said Mario.
By putting their heart and soul into their company, it has become more than they could ever ask for.
"And what my grandma always said, anything you put your mind to it, just do it, you’ll figure put away. If it’s a vision, it can come to life and that’s what we stuck with, said Marcus. “We didn’t let anything around us bring discouragement or make us feel like it wasn’t worth it.”
When the pandemic hit, it was tough as it was for every other small business, but they saw this as an opportunity to help others while protecting their community and did so by shifting their business model slightly. They began making customizable masks, with the option to match your masks with your socks. And it was a hit, with people flocking to the Oviedo Mall, to get anything they desired on their mask.
Now they are designing the same amount of socks as they do masks. From tributes, pictures, teams, celebrities, holidays, to logos-- if you can think it, they can make it.
They have created socks and masks for a countless number of events like gender reveals, weddings, family reunions, and even funerals.
The brothers said they were fortunate the community was able to still support them through the coronavirus, and because of the transition from socks to masks, they were able to continually serve their residents.
“Before the COVID thing people were reaching out and wanted to come show their support because of the situation and then when COVID did hit, people started coming in and supporting us more and more,” said Mario Taylor. “And the fact that we had something to give them like masks for example, PPE but customized, it kind of kept us in the game and we took that and built on top of the situation.”
Marcus Taylor said they were able to survive the struggle by staying moving and on course. All the while remaining focused through the hardships that hit local small businesses.
“One thing we learned along the way, that one thing that kind of kept of kept us flowing is that business is not all about money, because if you have a business and you think ‘Oh money, money, money, just business’ who’s going to support it if you don’t have relationships with your communities,” he said.
During the pandemic, they made sure to give back to their community by delivering masks and customized PPE local hospitals like Advent Health, officials, and children in need as they go back to school.
“Our business is built on community and relationships, love and passion and that’s the only reason why we’re surviving were we are now,” Mario Taylor said.
When Hurricane Dorian devastated the Bahamas, they sent over tons of socks to people in need on the island.
Marcus and Mario said it has always been in their nature to randomly show up somewhere and give away different things in their community. They’ve surprised the staff at the 7- Eleven, local convenience stores, and various grocery stores. They said it’s never just for one person, but for the entire staff.
“When you do that, it’s just an amazing feeling to know that you’ve been a part of some happiness, no matter where it’s coming from. People love when you just give and show love,” Mario said.
They said every month, they allocate enough material and products to give away to the community.
The Sock Gallery was built on relationships and they have created so many along the way.
One story that the brothers hold near and dear to their hearts was of a woman who came into their store and ordered socks in remembrance of her husband. He was a pilot for the regional Flying Tigers and flew B-52 Bomber. She ordered socks with a picture of him in his bomber but she never came back for the socks. They said a month later, her daughter came into the store and told them that her mother was in hospice and only had 1 week to live.
The twins were so touched by this woman that they closed the store the same day, bought some flowers and hand-delivered the socks to her. They sat by her bedside as the woman’s daughter put the socks on her feet. The woman told the twins the love story of how she met her late husband back in 1941. The 99-year-old woman sat up her bed and lit up after seeing these nostalgic socks. After speaking with this widow, the twins said she went on to live another two months. They said the woman’s daughter even gifted them with a signed Flying Tigers poster with autographs from the summer of 1942.
It’s more than just socks and masks, it’s experiences like these that make everything worthwhile, the brothers say.
Many of their socks and masks pay homage to recent tragic events, like the death of Kobe Bryant, Chadwick Boseman, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and the Pulse nightclub shooting victims.
Mario Taylor said when talking about black-owned businesses that you can’t just be in business for yourself and for the money, but you have to be in business for the community. That it’s about building brand awareness and creating a significant meaning behind what you’re doing. Mario said that he doesn’t think people buy from them because they are a black-owned business or a twin business; people shop at their store for the experience.
Mario believes that being involved with your community and creating relationships are key to having a successful business. He said that your community will support you during the hard times as long as you have built a strong foundation with them.
Marcus' and Mario’s advice for others and fellow business owners is to never give up and find time to give back.
“I would say, go for it and learn as you go because there are so many people out there that have struggled in one area where you’ve been stronger in another. So we’ve been guided through a lot of different ways and we find ourselves now giving people more advice then we’ve ever gotten. You learn as you go and you learn so you can teach someone else, so it’s kind of like a chain,” Marcus said.
“Don’t ever give up no matter what, cause it’s so easy to give up. One of things that we experienced the most is that right when you get to that moment where you want to quit; that’s the moment of win, that’s the moment when it’s time, that’s the moment when you make one more step, or that one more climb, or that one more push, that’s the moment” said Mario.
And the brothers hold each of those moments close to their heart. They believe that sharing, caring, and giving is what businesses should be built on. That’s how you grow and see your dreams come to fruition.