Blaine’s Fine Men’s Apparel
"Dress to impress is your key to success."
Buddy Goldstein helps his customers do just that at his upscale menswear store, Blaine's Fine Men's Apparel located in Cincinnati's Old Montgomery neighborhood. With over 10 years in retail menswear, Buddy knows quality and style when he sees it. But even with his extensive experience, Buddy realized there was a lot to learn about starting and running a business.
"My fondness for the challenges of retail clothing began when I worked part-time for a menswear company in high school," Buddy recalls. "After college, they offered me a full-time job, which I eagerly accepted. They were in a major growth phase, and I helped open four new stores in Chicago. Eventually, I became assistant vice president of operations for a $50 million-business."
Looming changes in the company's direction spurred Buddy to think about his future. He went to graduate school and landed a job with a curtain manufacturer. While that job offered both security and opportunities, he missed the menswear business. Perhaps, he thought, it was time to go into business for himself with a clothing store he could call his own.
Buddy opened Blaine's Fine Men's Apparel in September 2000—"the worst possible time for menswear considering the economic downturn," he says. Still, he has managed to consistently meet his "best case" projections each month. "With everything that has happened in this country, I feel very fortunate," he said a few months after Blaine's one-year anniversary. "Now, I have to focus on balancing my inventory with cash flow, and make sure I don't overbuy. There are a lot of challenges ahead, but this experience is everything I hoped it would be."
A family friend suggested that Buddy contact Ralph Lowenstein, the former co-owner and president of a local sportswear wholesaler, and a volunteer mentor with SCORE's Cincinnati chapter. "I had a sketchy business plan for my store, but really didn't know how to get started," Buddy says. "Ralph turned out to be the perfect match for me. He helped flesh out the business plan and alerted me to considerations I hadn't considered. He is the perfect devil's advocate because he's been through all of this before."
That was the beginning of what Buddy calls a terrific relationship. "I've never dealt with anything like cash flow before," he explains. "It's not rocket science, but you do have to know what to look for and why it's important. Ralph helps me understand the numbers and what they mean. I can see now why so many new businesses fail."
Because Buddy was targeting a select market for his store, Ralph helped him conduct market research, including several focus groups. That valuable input led Buddy to identify a location that, while perfect for attracting customers, required substantial remodeling. With Ralph's guidance, Buddy was able to negotiate a favorable lease, arrange a line of credit with a local bank, and keep the necessary improvements within his budget limitations.
"This wasn't a case of Ralph telling me something and me just nodding my head," Buddy says. "When he talked, I listened because I wanted to avoid the silly mistakes that can undermine a business." Buddy admits to committing some errors, such as purchasing inventory before he had a lease. "That saved some money up front, but cost me in the long run," he says. "But starting a business is a learning process. And I couldn't ask for a better mentor than Ralph. He's a great sounding board for ideas, and an invaluable source of experience and knowledge."
One thing Buddy can count on is the continued support of SCORE and his mentor Ralph. He and Ralph meet monthly to review financials and watch for potential problems and opportunities. "There truly is no substitute for experience," Buddy says. "Ralph has been an emotional and strategic partner in the growth of my business. I couldn't have asked for a better mentor."