Go with the flow: Harlems Flow opens on the Avenue

Harlem Joe’s is no more, but not to worry, Joe Terry opened a new clothing boutique just down the street in January. Harlem’s Flow, Terry’s newest venture, is reminiscent of his original store, but finer. It’s clear Terry has distilled his retail sense here. The inventory is smaller, but better, and the same could be said of the new store’s design. “We’re concentrated on things looking a lot nicer,” Terry says.

He worked hard to cultivate the store’s West Village-industrial chic, stripping and refinishing all the wood floors himself, and then replacing slat walls with high-end dark wood clothing displays. He finished the look with dark wood tables and comfortable upholstered chairs to create a space that’s plush but inviting.

Unlike many of the other urban wear stores on the avenue, Harlem’s Flow offers clothes and accessories for both men and women. It was a calculated decision on Terry’s part. “That’s how I had my other store, too,” Terry says. “In this area, you survive off the first of the month. Whether you’re getting a fixed income, or you got SSI, or you got kids, and usually people shop in couples…and they kind of buy for each other at that time,” he says. Of course, guilt is a powerful motivator, too. “What woman that has kids goes shopping for herself and doesn’t feel guilty?” he asks. If women are buying for themselves, they usually end up picking up something for the men in their lives, and vice-versa, he says. “It compensates for your guilt,” he says. How much more convenient, then, to have styles for both in the same shop.

Clearly, Terry’s no stranger to buyer psychology; his insights were honed during his years running Harlem Joe’s. He owned this successful urban wear outlet near Lark Street for more than five years before his mother’s death forced him to close up shop last year, and go home to take care of her affairs. He and his wife, Carlynne Terry began plans for the new store as soon as he returned.

Small business owners like Terry face a number of challenges. Growing a store is a matter of juggling profits between advertising and inventory. “Advertisement is always a challenge with a new business, being able to afford advertisement. Especially if you start a business with no loans or anything, so everything is pretty much what you invest in a store,” Terry says. At the same time, he has to keep an eye on his inventory, and keeping up-to-date styles that people will buy. He has to stay light on his feet, keeping stock that he thinks will move, but remaining flexible–and flush enough–to restock if they don’t sell as briskly as he’d like. It’s a balancing act, he says.

In spite of the challenges, Terry is making his way. “It’s growing, compared to other businesses, I’ve had. It’s on schedule. It’s actually probably ahead of schedule,” he says. Each month, he says, he can see a little progress. “I can see where I’ve grown after all the bills are paid, and I can add a little more inventory,” he says. That’s probably due mostly to his eye for style and his nose for bargains, which have earned him a loyal following of customers, he says.

Terry hopes that within five years, he’ll be ordering direct instead of buying wholesale, and that he’ll be in a better position to snatch up close-outs, like the bigger discount powerhouses T.J. Maxx and Marshall’s. That’s the only way he’ll be able to grab up the namebrands that so many of his customers covet, he says. “Those are the main things that I want to get after,” he says. “American chases name-brands. They want that thing that costs $500, but they want to get it for $100.” But with Terry’s business acumen, there’s no doubt he’ll find a way to get it to them. For more news stories check abq news.