Sunday, September 03, 2000

Businessmen lack suitable quality, prices

        When they were growing up in the West End of downtown, West Africa and his buddies sometimes talked about making it to the big time. And big time meant being successful in business and looking sharp.

[photo] Skip Meyers (from left), Gary Brown and West Africa think Cincinnati has good shopping - if you know where to go.
(Gary Landers photo)
| ZOOM |
        They made it in business. But as it turns out, finding the clothes to suit their competitive position is sometimes as difficult as maintaining their success.

        “It's too homogenized. This is a very homogenized retail environment,” said Mr. Africa, president and owner of Flawless Building Services. “What I can't find is high-quality merchandise at really good prices.”

        Mr. Africa sat with his partners at their downtown offices to talk about the problems they have finding nice clothes in Cincinnati. As professionals in a small business, they want to look competitive in good-looking suits. But the designer brands they like can't be found in area department stores.

        So they hunt for what they want at stores such as Syms, Steinmart and a few specialties.

        “It's not just an African-American thing,” said Skip Myers, vice president of Flawless. “I love Cincinnati, I think a lot of the stuff is here. I think it's just knowing where it is.”

        It's also not a matter of being conservative, they say — it's a matter of wanting to look professional. And to look professional, a person needs quality.

        “In our business, the first impression that people (get) is an everlasting impression,” said Gary Brown, operations manager at Flawless. “We, being a small business, need to impress the people.”

        The men said Cincinnati seems to cater to large department store chains, many of which offer the same looks and brands. Specialty stores with uncommon selections are harder to find, they say.

        “It's not our budget, because we can pay $1,000,” Mr. Africa said. “But why pay it when I can get it for $300?”


— Lisa Biank Fasig

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