Since establishing in 1980, Boy Next Door Menswear has grown into one of the most notable clothing establishments in Atlanta. Providing a wide range of clothing from trendy designers and international brands alike, Boy Next Door is often Atlanta’s exclusive home for new men’s fashion.
The locally owned business is still in its original location on Piedmont Avenue over thirty years after opening, though it’s taken up more space in the area since its early days.
According to store manager Ray Dowis, “We’re one of the original gay establishments in Atlanta, just like Backstreet and some of the others that have long since closed, even though they were clubs. When it comes to original gay establishments from the very beginnings of gay culture in Atlanta, that’s where this store comes from. A lot of people, especially the younger generations, don’t know this.”
Maintaining a Unique Market Presence
Something else Atlantans might not know is how Boy Next Door selects their product line. Boy Next Door has a lengthy history of obtaining brands like Diesel before they’re widely known.
“Many of the brands that we have, the names that we have them branded under are their original or factory brands that we have a strong establishment with that have been rebranded or better-known for younger generations,” says Dowis.
Dowis cites the long-term success of the store, as well as its higher-end clientele, as reasons for Boy Next Door’s success in getting exclusive deals with various vendors.
“When it comes to buying and competition, we work with the same people that Barneys New York and Neiman Marcus do. Because of long-term history and establishment in Atlanta, a key market for many retailers, they see the niche that we own with Boy Next Door, and they honor it. So when we go buying, or we approach vendors to purchase merchandise, they react to us and, when compared to a boutique that you would see in the Highlands, they treat us as if we have equal buying power with Neiman Marcus or someone like that. They give us exclusivity of products that they will not even sell to Neiman Marcus or to companies like that because they realize that the niche that we have here is good for their company, good for their market. So for them to make us the only company that has this particular color, style, or fit in product, it works for them.”
With exclusive products, though, comes a unique set of issues. Many of the store’s items have limited production runs that may be exclusive to Boy Next Door and a handful of other stores across the country.
“Customers will see that we have limited sizes. When we buy, we don’t buy items and products that are extremely readily available, even to places like Macy’s. We buy products [from vendors] that they will only give us exclusive rights for, whether it’s in the southeast or just for us, or we’ll buy ‘limited cuts.’ We’ll buy products that they don’t put in their normal collection. They’ve offered it as a design, and they’ll tell us, ‘We’ll make this product.’ So we’ll go in – say, us and a boutique in San Francisco or Boystown – we’ll all go in and order two or three sizes each of that particular product. They’ll make that item, and then they’ll never make it again. That’s why we can’t get more sizes of a medium or a large when people ask ‘Do you have more sizes in the back?’ We can’t just call them and say, ‘Hey, we want more mediums and smalls of this red,’ because it doesn’t exist. They won’t make it again. You can’t get it.”
Their exclusivity also factors into the prices customers will find at Boy Next Door, which Dowis believes still offer a great value to his clientele.
“The products we offer are very limited – you can’t go to Macy’s or Neiman and buy the product. You may be able to go online, but you’re going to spend more, even in that case. And it’s not going to be the same color, and that’s one of the major differences in the product and what we offer in our store.
“Because of those things, we actually pay more for the product. But when you work out the value equation of what you’re paying for exclusivity and the quality of the products we carry, you’re getting a much better deal here than you would get at a Macy’s or even a Neiman Marcus on some of the items.”
The exclusivity also contributes to an issue Boy Next Door wants to resolve, such as offering products to a wider variety of customers – in some cases, literally.
“We don’t have sizes to fit the bears. They might want to wear bigger sizes of clothing, and that’s one of the major reasons why, many of these vendors simply don’t make sizes. Even to get an extra-large is like pulling teeth. So we’ve really been reaching out to and challenging our vendors, to help us to accommodate this, so we can expand our sizes and produces sizes going all the way up to, say, 3XL. That’s also one of the things we’re working on as we go to market and challenging vendors to provide to us.
“It’s been a challenge to us, because we could go out there and buy a whole bunch of dress shirts and things in big sizes that would be just as boring and lacking in quality as you’d find in local big and tall shops, or we can take our time and find vendors that will provide those sizes, but in current styles and trends that will make members of the bear community want to wear them even more. It’s a process, and it’s actually been more of a challenge than we realized, but it is on our priority list.”
Next: Boy Next Door Talks Community Involvement and Expansion Plans
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