Forced to delay its opening date because of the coronavirus pandemic, a new menswear store is at last up and running, and hoping to find a niche in the city’s clothing retail scene.
Homme Essentials, which takes its name from the French word for man, opened last month at 1006 Lafayette St., just west of the Museum District in Richmond. The store sells clothing and accessories, and is the brainchild of co-owners Alan Long and Kevin McFadden.
Long said Richmond was lacking in options for men’s clothing somewhere between value packs and pricey designer pieces. Long also owns Square Trade Goods Co., which sells candles, incense and related items. Square Trade sells its products in Homme Essentials.
“There’s a hole in menswear in Richmond,” Long said. “I’m not trying to get a three-pack of Hanes T-shirts, but I’m also not looking for a $200 T-shirt.”
The store also wants to elevate brands Long admires but thinks aren’t represented well locally.
“Over the years, going to trade shows, I’ve met other brands not represented in Richmond,” he said.
Some brands the store carries includes 3sixteen, a clothing company, Standard Issue Tees and Yield Design Co., a home goods brand.
“We want to introduce guys in Richmond, or guys visiting Richmond, to things they may not have known about before,” said McFadden, who’s a development manager at local real estate firm Rebkee Co. McFadden also has prior experience working in menswear stores.
Long said the store is focused on the in-person shopping experience, in part because he personally likes to see clothes himself when he’s buying. Online pictures don’t always do justice to fabric quality, color and other aspects of clothing, he said.
“I’m very tactile. I like to touch something, I like to feel something,” Long said.
He admits that’s a challenging model these days. Public health measures intended to stem the coronavirus pandemic closed storefronts in March, throwing a wrench in the duo’s initial plan to open Homme Essentials later that same month. Phase one of the state’s reopening plan kicked off in May, allowing non-essential retailers to operate at 50 percent capacity.
Homme Essentials allows four customers at a time inside its 1,200-square-foot space, and enforces safety protocols such as a requirement that customers wear face coverings. The store does curbside sales and plans to launch a web store this month.
Given the circumstances, McFadden has been pleased with the response from customers and the neighborhood.
“It’s definitely given us a level of optimism that is a little unexpected,” he said.
The store has one employee and plans to add one or two more in the coming months.
Homme Essentials hired local firms Campfire and Co. and IronOak to design the space.
The pandemic has cut into bottom lines across the business landscape. In the clothing retail sector, that’s manifested locally with the closing of local outposts of brands such as Nordstrom and H&M, and fast-tracked local women’s clothing store Bliss at 5812’s plan to ditch its brick-and-mortar location for online-only sales.