Downtown Miami: a daunting world; where parking is a privilege not a right, and strange, exotic men attempt to lure you into their over-crowded accessory stores with an "authentic" Canon 6D at a suspiciously low price. Good shopping in downtown doesn't come easy. Aside from a uniformed army of stores with luggage and pawned-off cameras, what's left?
Sure, downtown has it's charm with buzz-worthy spots like American Airlines Arena for the sports fanatics, the row of restaurants off of Third Avenue for the keenest of taste buds, Grand Central for the beat-bumpers, and the Corner for all the hipsters and artsy folk. But where does that leave the local consumers?
For brothers Randy and Brian Alonso, finding a cure for the area's otherwise shady reputation of retail discrepancies, is their core mission. The ordinance against said dilemma: Lost Boy Dry Goods, the duo's co-ed, Americana denim boutique recently opened right in the heart of downtown, amid the finagling and scam artists off of East Flagler Street.
"We want to build the neighborhood," declares Randy Alonso, co-owner of the Colorado-inspired, rustic boutique.
Having been raised around the area as offspring of the owners of Miami's oldest department store, La Epoca, the brothers quickly saw a demand for a concept store, that attracts more locals.
In 2011, the brothers grew frustrated with the "development of the area" retail-wise and sought to "extract a new type of customer." Thus, they devised a rustic, denim retail concept, providing a homey space where local guys and girls can curl-up on their vintage leather couch and browse through one of their coffee table books currently for sale. Randy says that the name of the store came from a ski lift in Colorado where his father first taught the two boys how to ski.
"Lost Boy was this long green [run]," Randy recalls, "so my dad would always take us up there to practice." Come summertime, the Alonso family would say adios to Miami's grogginess and take three-day road trips up to Colorado, where they would also pass through much of the Southwest.
"This is beautiful," says Randy, pointing to the Southwestern region on a map of the U.S. "We would pass through Sedona and it blew me away."
For the brothers, that childhood nostalgia lingered and manifested into what is now their very own fully functional one-stop shop. The 2,700-square-foot boutique, completely stripped from it's original packaging of mired ceilings and white walls, has since been entirely restored by Randy, a civil engineering graduate from Duke. Exposed brick walls and refurbished marble floors, as well as the wood encompassing the fitting-rooms brought from three different farms in Tennessee, now warm the expanse.
"A lot of the furniture here is actually from my family, or I've found over the years," Randy says. "These trunks were my brother's trunks when he used to go away to camp; the hat rack over there is my grandfather's; and all the books were from the den in my house."
After demolishing the low-slung ceilings, a second floor was the natural next step, where floorboards from an old general store in the hills of Tennessee now hang over the cash rep and shoe area.
Randy says he wanted the store to be more like a closet, but a cozy yet trendy lodge would better suit the downtown fortress of wood. The guts, or merchandise, also help tell the story of the guys' vision. Reprinted, vinyl records, from Michael Jackson to The Doors, sit atop one of Brian's old camp trunks, ranging in price from $25-$45.
Footwear from brands like Lacoste, G-Star, Toms, and Scandinavian brand, Gram, close in on the back of the store. But it's items like old-fashioned Crosley phones (with rotary dial and all!) and hot sauces -- yes, hot sauces -- imported from Colorado that give a signature tang to the boys' boutique.
"They're all from Colorado," Randy says of the sauces, "and you can sample them down here. If you try one of the tens, you get an extra discount."
Sauces and ancient telephones apart, it's the denim that really brings the foot traffic in. And while the store does have a hefty amount of lines to choose from for the ladies -- J Brand and Paige, for example -- it's the guys who get all the 3-to-1 pampering.
"It's kind of like a liquor bar, separated by category, and organized from bottom shelf brands (least expensive) to top (most expensive)," Randy says. "You have your $70 denim all the way up to your $350 pair. It's organized by fit -- from the skinniest leg to the widest." There, guys of all shapes and sizes have the liberty to choose from brands like Ralph Lauren, Levis Made and Crafted, Diesel, and PRPS from one of Nike's former designers, Donwan Harrell -- from the softest, distressed denim to the sturdiest, raw selvedge; all style jeans for men are there ripe for the picking.
Randy goes on to explain how weight plays a significant part on the price you pay for your jeans. The thicker the denim, the higher the price point, stating that 18-oz. denim is the heaviest, in other words it's the crème de la crème. So if Seven For All of Mankind weighs up to only seven or eight ounces, why the $200 price tag? Think before you buy.
Before opening up their specialty boutique, the brothers ran the family business right across the street at La Epoca, completely rebranding it together. In fact, the act of having two brothers helm Miami's first department store has always been a trend since the store's inception.
In 1927, two brothers, Alonso's grandfather and great uncle, bought the then fabric store in Havana, Cuba, and turned it into the largest department store in the city's capital.
Of course, Fidel changed all of that in 1960 when he nationalized nearly all business, causing the family to make an overnight move to Miami. Five years later, the brothers opened shop in the Dupont Building after realizing that their returning back to Cuba was but a bleak possibility.
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From there, Randy's dad and uncle took over the company, and just decades down the road, Randy and Brian stepped up to the plate to revamp everything in the 46-year old department store from logo to merchandise in 2006.
"It's always been two brothers doing everything; my dad and uncle at La Epoca, and now my brother and I taking it to the next level," Randy says.
For the brothers, their move to next-level status starts by giving back. For the store's grand opening on September 25, the brothers will launch their Denim Exchange Program through October. Instead of letting those dusty jeans sulk in your closet, you can bring them into the store and receive 25 percent off the purchase of a new pair; now you both go home happy. For each jean donated, the proceeds will go to Camillus House toward those in-need and homeless.