Woodville Surplus adds fashion departmentWritten by Sarah Ottney | Managing Editor | firstname.lastname@example.org
Woodville Surplus in Oregon, with its creaking wood floors and utilitarian stock of workwear, military and outdoor gear, has long catered to the region’s outdoorspeople and blue-collar workers.
When the 26-year-old grandson of the founder noticed the fashion world trending toward an “American workwear aesthetic,” he saw an opportunity to expand the store’s demographic while remaining true to his family’s mission.
Neal Felstein recently debuted a new department consisting of “affordable boutique clothing” in styles aimed at a 20- to 30-something audience while keeping the emphasis on the durability and affordability his family has promoted for more than 60 years.
Think skinny jeans, work boots, vintage tees, fitted flannel shirts, denim work shirts, Vietnam-issue combat shirts and woven pearl-snap shirts, as well as accessories like kafia scarves, bags, bandanas and more than 100 styles of sunglasses.
“I’m trying to keep things in line with a working man’s store,” Felstein said. “Woodville Surplus is locally owned, not pretentious, only the essentials. I’m focusing on fit and fashion and keeping prices as low as possible, in line with the rest of the store.”
Most of the clothing will be menswear or unisex, but Felstein hopes to offer more women’s clothing in the future.
Display fixtures include pipes and hand-built wooden shelves, as well as vintage posters, vintage cash registers and ammunition cans. Eventually, he hopes to add a lounge area with a rug, chairs and vintage magazines.
“I’m going to try to make it a boutique experience,” Felstein said. “Like a store within a store.”
Felstein plans to stock different styles of brands currently sold at the store, as well as bring in new pieces.
As an example, Felstein pointed to a flannel shirt hanging in the store.
“This is nice stuff, but it’s for lumberjacks,” Felstein said. “It’s good, warm, thick and inexpensive, but I’m looking for a fashion cut.”
Felstein recently attended MAGIC, an international fashion trade show, in Las Vegas.
“That’s where you go to see cutting-edge fashion for spring and fall 2011,” Felstein said. “That’s where I got most of my vendors.”
The new department will include pants from Levi’s and Dickies, shirts from Alternative Apparel, Original Penguin, Ames Bros, Slow Loris and Urban Outfitters’ brand BDG as well as Toledo company Devicious, boots from Georgia Boot; and possibly shoes from PF Flyers and TOMS, Felstein said.
The Levi’s are already in and Felstein expects other shipments by mid-March.
Felstein applied for and received $3,000 in startup money from Dickies.
“Dickies’ philosophy of durability, value and urban youth fashion is in line with our store,” Felstein said.
The money will be put toward buying merchandise, as well as toward a celebration he plans to host outside at the Ottawa Tavern in June, which will include live music, food and drink specials, giveaways and coupons for Woodville Surplus.
Felstein, who recently graduated from The Ohio State University, doesn’t have formal training in business or fashion, but said retail is in his blood.
“I grew up around this,” Felstein said. “It’s frustrating when I walk in my family’s store and don’t really want to buy anything.”
Felstein is quick to reassure the store’s current demographics that nothing they love about Woodville Surplus will change.
“Nothing is being eliminated; we’re just moving things around and adding more,” Felstein said. “I’m just trying to keep it fresh. The reason we’ve been in business so long is we are able to adapt, evolve.”
One of those he had to reassure was his father. Neal’s grandfather, Harry Felstein, founded Woodville Surplus in 1949 when he returned from World War II and his father, Michael Felstein, currently owns it.
“Dad wasn’t sold on it right away,” Neal said. “He doesn’t come out to bars and see the potential. I’m slowly but surely selling him on it.”
Devicious co-owner Micah Lindenberger said the shirts the company is designing for Woodville Surplus will be muted colors and have an aged, vintage look.
“We’re designing them to appeal toward what we would think is cool and what Neal thinks is cool and we’re hoping other people agree and want to buy them,” Lindenberger said. “Neal’s heading up the idea and the direction behind them and we’re just kind of adding to it and making them look cool. Neal’s really passionate about this. I feel like Toledo is lacking some fashion culture and with this we’ll have more unique, interesting fashion. We’re on board with that and I’m excited about what’s going to happen.”
Woodville Surplus, 2172 Woodville Road, is open Monday through Saturday 9:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Sunday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. For information, visit the website www.woodville-surplus.com or call (419) 691-4636.