S3E9: Taylor Harvell with G Harvell Men’s Clothier

Transcript:

This episode is for all of the guys that want to look sharp. I don't know of any other shop in Mobile where you can go and get clothing of the quality and style as G Harvell Men's Clothier. Taylor Harvell is the son of Greg Harvell and has been handed the keys to the business. Retail is a difficult business to be in and the fact that G Harvell's has managed to thrive for the last 15 years is a testimony to the service and quality that they provide. Listen in as Taylor gives us some insights into his journey as a second generation clothier. 

Marcus: Why don't you tell us a little bit about yourself. Did you grow up here in Mobile, and go to school here? You know, that kind of thing.

Taylor: Okay, well yeah. I grew up here in Mobile. My parents are originally from outside the city, so we kind of have that little weird dynamic, but I am from here. I went to UMS, ended up going to Alabama. Got a finance degree and then came back and eventually went into the clothing business. Not really sure how that correlates. 

Marcus: After you and I ... I think [Ren 00:00:48] and I came over to inquire about the Mobile, the airport acronym hats that you sell in the store. We checked in and your father pinged me and it was interesting because I think he spent some time in the northern Virginia area. We kind of shared some experiences there, because if I remember correctly, he went to Fairfax High School or something along those lines?

Taylor: I think so. I remember you all having that conversation.

Marcus: Yeah. It was just ... It was cool to make that connection. I know you're joining a family business. Can you give us kind of a history of how the shop started and what was the background there?

Taylor: Yeah. He, my dad, worked for Levi's for a long time. He's kind of been in that clothing business, but he was on the other side. He eventually ... Once that chapter closed, the store evolved eventually. They kind of just decided on a whim because he was already on that business. Again, was on the other side though. Decided to open it up. They opened in 2002, in a different location than we are now. I mean that really is the simple way of how he got started. I mean he was in the industry, he knew the industry, and always had a passion for clothing and things like that and he has good taste and the rest is history.

Marcus: I was going to say, if there's one thing that you guys are known for, it's having clothes that are really just very stylish, very modern, but also still with some very traditional aspects too.

Taylor: Right, and that's what I was going to say. We kind of pride ourself on hitting that gray area between too conservative and too fast, so we kind of try to hit that middle area. 

Marcus: Yeah, it's funny because moving from D.C. where everybody where's frumpy, and I won't name the place, but you know the frumpy suits that you get that are off the rack, and not everybody can afford even to have a suit or to have one tailored, but if you've got to have a suit, you want it to look good and often times it's not a matter of them being ridiculously expensive, it's just a matter of getting the right cut, having it adjusted appropriately by a good tailor that know what they're doing. I know you guys offer quite a bit of that in house.

Taylor: Right, and I know what you mean. I have lived in D.C. for awhile and you would think because that's what most people think of as conservative, but it's not. It kind of hit me by surprise because you're right. People look not well put together for the most part up there.

Marcus: That's a kind way of saying it.

Taylor: You can by a $2,000 suit, but if it doesn't fit right it doesn't matter. If you buy $100 suit and it fits great then it looks great and that's the bottom line.

Marcus: Yeah. That's awesome. You mentioned going to Alabama, majoring in finance?

Taylor: Yes.

Marcus: Did you go directly into the family business?

Taylor: No, I moved to D.C. the week after I graduated and that was not planned. A congressman that I worked for ended up switching parties and his whole staff quit and they panicked and I was on a list of people to call somehow because I didn't have any other plans so I was like you know whatever.

Marcus: It's like choose your own adventure with Taylor here.

Taylor: Yeah, and I lived up there for close to two years, and a year and a half, and after that I actually moved to Birmingham and was doing, when I say finance it was kind of geared towards real estate so I was working for a brokerage company out of Atlanta but I was living in Birmingham. After that, I went and I was a financial analyst for Protective Life, absolutely hated it. Sat at a desk, crunched numbers all day.

Marcus: You don't strike me as the kind of guy that's going to want to do that.

Taylor: No contact. I mean I'm in a cubicle just sitting there going crazy. Once that ended, I came home, started this and now we're here.

Marcus: Yeah that's cool. I know that you guys are kind of maybe transitioning, is a good word to use here, from your father being mostly involved in running the business and now you're kind of starting to pick up that mantel, what has that experience been like? Is there anything ... Obviously, for somebody that has some of the experience that you have, you understand numbers, you understand that aspect of the business, but retail can be a finicky bird. 

Taylor: It's an animal.

Marcus: And you're a single shop basically, competing about large corporations that are in the area.

Taylor: And the internet.

Marcus: And the internet. Very true. What has that learning experience been like for you?

Taylor: Eye opening to say the least. I mean anybody that's been in retail, even if you've worked in a shop, you understand that it is it's a different beast. It's nonstop. I mean even when we're not at work and you do own a locally owned business, you kind of have to always be working if that makes sense.

Marcus: I understand.

Taylor: You and Ren, I mean everybody should. There's a lot involved. I've got a lot to learn too. You're always growing, trying to know more. There's always more stuff to know, but it's not easy.

Marcus: Yeah. The audience here is, as I mentioned before, a lot of business owners or people that are looking to start a business, it's the business community for Mobile. If you were talking to somebody that was possibly thinking of opening a business or starting a business, what's one bit of wisdom that you would share with them?

Taylor: God, that's a good question. I mean you have to really ... You see a lot of people open stores, and we see it a lot, they think that they're going to open up and it's going to be fun and they have the best taste so they're going to make everybody buy all their stuff and they don't really want to do the ground work in the background and the numbers and all that kind of thing. They end up failing because of it. It's not a hobby. It's not necessarily fun. You really have to make sure that it's something that you want to do and you have to eat, sleep, and breathe it. Like I said, it's not just something you can do because you like the clothes. You really have to have a passion for whatever you do.

Marcus: There's a difference between liking fashion and liking looking. Can I say that? I guess I just did. Liking looking good? Go ahead and leave that in there. I'm looking at Jared and he's laughing at me like, "Did you really just say that you moron?" No, you may like looking good, but there's a difference between that and actually running a store where you've got to pay attention to the turns and what's actually selling. 

Taylor: I mean it's not. I mean it doesn't have to be clothing. It's any business. It is a business and that's just the bottom line of it. 

Marcus: You mentioned the internet. What are you all doing, because obviously you're seeing success, and we'll get into this here in a minute, but you're going into a new facility, you're seeing growth, what are you all doing, and don't reveal any secret sauce, but what are you all doing that has benefited you that is allowing you to see this kind of growth? You are, again, competing against people with large, deep pockets.

Taylor: Yeah, well that's the thing, and we try to be unique in the sense of the things we carry and we try to brand ourselves in a way, to where it makes you feel good to shop local. I mean everybody wants to be on the local kick, but not everybody is. Another thing a lot of people don't realize is when you shop at any local business, the mom and pop stores, for every $1 spent, 68 cents comes back into the community. Now if you go to a chain, say Walmart here in town, 43 cents might go back into the community. Now if you shop on the internet, zero is coming back into your local community. If anything, I think that we do a good job of making that experience better if that makes any sense.

Marcus: Sure. 

Taylor: I mean, we have to have customer service. That's what we're based on because if now we're no different than the internet or some big department store. It's about an experience. I mean you come in, we got a kegerator at the front door. You drink beer, walk around, hang out, play with the dogs. It's an experience rather than ...

Marcus: I know that being a locally owned business, I mentioned the MOB hats, you've also got some other products. Mention some of the products you have that are specific to Mobile.

Taylor: Yeah. That was another thing. To be honest, a lot of people won't or feel like they can't, afford a lot of the stuff in the store, which it's not the case. We do carry high-end things, very nice things, but there's something for everybody. That's kind of where I had that ah-ha moment of, "Okay let's create some locally themed t-shirts," things like that just to create a little bit traffic, create some interest because no one else was doing it. We did some Joe Cain stuff. We had some fun with Mardi gras and things like that.

Marcus: I love the, is it the t-shirt that says ... Or it's the sign ...

Taylor: Yeah, "Go to church or the devil will get you."

Marcus: Go to church or the devil will get you.

Taylor: We sent that shirt, I mean I've sent that shirt as far as California. We had a guy talking to them when we first came out with it, he lived in Chicago and somehow came across it I guess just promoting things on Facebook and said that they got the biggest kick out of going up 65 going back home and seeing that sign.

Marcus: I don't think that was the intention. Meanwhile in Alabama. You have to kind of, I don't know, that's a whole different podcast, but you have to kind of laugh at the tactic there. It's not hitting the mark so it's become kind of a meme, a local meme, you go to church or the devil will get you. It's like come on, let's be a little bit more mature than that.

Taylor: I think he meant it literally.

Marcus: Yeah exactly. You've had the Joe Cain shirts and some other t-shirts. I know you just had some ties made with the ...

Taylor: We did, we did the Mobile city logo. Those have been a big hit.

Marcus: That's awesome. Now it's just cool to see how you've really kind of ingrained yourself into the city and the culture and keeping ties, literally and figuratively, into what's going on here. It's pretty neat. What are some of the resources that you've used as part of this learning process that you've found helpful?

Taylor: For me personally, obviously my dad, I mean he's a wealth of knowledge because he's decades. He's just been doing it for so long. Within the industry, I mean it's a norm. I mean we get calls all the time, people asking us advice. We call people to ask them advice. I mean it's just similar shops within the southeast for the most part, because we are fighting the same battles, that kind of deal, so they come across a new brand they'll tell us how they've been successful with it, that kind of deal. Mainly we will reach out to other similar businesses.

Marcus: And then just share information?

Taylor: Right.

Marcus: Tactics and stuff like that.

Taylor: Yeah, and we were talking a little bit before this, and I want to just further solidify that point of not being afraid to ask for assistance from other people in that industry and just being able to share information. We do a lot of, as an advertising agent, we do a lot of podcasts and stuff like that share information that we have. Just because you give somebody information, doesn't necessarily ... In our instance just because you give the information doesn't necessarily mean somebody can actually act on it. It's probably very similar in that you don't mind sharing the information, especially if they're not geographically in competition with you, but the other thing of just, like again just because you share that information doesn't mean that the shop owner that is on the eastern shore that offers maybe similar products is going to be more successful than you because they know your tactics, because there's a lot of execution that goes into works there.

Marcus: What do you like to do in your free time? Any hobbies?

Taylor: Just the normal. I see Ren in the gym daily, so that's what I do after work. I mean I live down here, downtown, so I kind of spend a lot of time down here. It's nice. It's getting nicer, which is great. I mean it's insane how quick down here is blowing up, so it's fun.

Marcus: Yeah, talk about that a little bit because what are you seeing downtown as somebody who has lived here for awhile?

Taylor: I mean I'm going on my third year down here and today versus when I moved down here ...

Marcus: Night and day?

Taylor: Oh for sure, and even if you go back 10 years, I don't know if we would be having this conversation down here.

Marcus: We wouldn't be having it down here because I've been in the area for 10 years running this business and it wouldn't be down here.

Taylor: It's crazy and it's awesome because it is so nice down here and it had so much potential and now it's happening. Living down here and you're seeing a lot more young people come down here and it's starting to thrive a little bit so it's fun.

Marcus: It's really cool to see because I did start the business in 2006, never would have considered running a business in downtown Mobile, but then you transition to just even recently, [South Sounds 00:16:29] festival was last weekend or the weekend before, and there was just a ton of really cool things that were going on. Neat bands that were happening. It was more of a family friendly atmosphere, even though it wasn't, I don't know that it was necessarily a family geared like it wasn't advertised as that, but it's certainly not something that you'd be afraid of bringing your kids to. Then just the cleanliness of the city. Walking around you just don't feel that same vibe that you would have felt awhile back.

Taylor: Not at all. 

Marcus: You are getting ready to move to a new location.

Taylor: Yes.

Marcus: Right around the corner from where you're currently at.

Taylor: Yeah about 150 yards.

Marcus: Yeah, so why don't you tell people what's going on there?

Taylor: In midtown, Publix has decided to come in and they're basically developing that whole area where we are right now. It's an old shell in Florida, and so what they're going to do is they're going to do a stand-alone Publix. It's going to be a smaller one, and then it's going to be a little village, it'll have some buildings kind of scattered around, that kind of thing, which will be the catalyst for that are because they've planned phase two and phase there and so that whole midtown area I think will kind of spiderweb out. I think it will also affect down here because it's not that far. You'll get a really good shopping area. You get a good grocery store for one, which I think is needed. Yeah, we're supposed to move in our new store, projected date is September 1st. Now with rain and things like that that we get, it will probably get pushed back. Right now we're looking at early September. The Publix should be opening Novemberish and then that whole area will start going up.

Marcus: How many square feet are you currently in? Roundabout.

Taylor: 2800 maybe.

Marcus: Is the new place bigger?

Taylor: I'm not exactly sure on the square footage yet. We're still kind of working out, because we will share the building with another business, but we don't know how much we're taking yet. We do know it will be a lot wider, so when you come in it will just kind of open up rather than ... You've been in our store.

Marcus: Yeah, it's narrow.

Taylor: It's like a shotgun house. Just go straight back.

Marcus: That's a good way of describing that. 

Taylor: We're excited about that. It will be good.

Marcus: On that same kind of vein, why don't you tell us, or tell the audience, where people can find you, so Facebook, website, any other outlets, Instagram if you have one, physical location.

Taylor: Yeah, all that, we're gharvell.com. We do a lot of social media stuff. That seems to be the best source for any source of media lately, whether it be fake news or finding a shirt, but everybody seems to be on it so that's been good for us. We're Facebook, Instagram, all that stuff.

Marcus: Very cool. G Harvell on all of those outlets?

Taylor: Yes. 

Marcus: Very good. Well I want to thank you again for coming on the podcast. To wrap up, any final thoughts or comments you'd like to share?

Taylor: Shop local. That's it. I mean that helps everybody in a big way. Again, I mean it's easy. 

Marcus: Whether it's a shirt, a Joe Cain shirt, or a Mobile tie, or a burger, there's a lot of options now.

Taylor: Yeah, I mean eat, drink, shop, all of it, do it local.

Marcus: Absolutely. I appreciate your wiliness to sit with me and share your journey as a business owner. It's been great talking with you.

Taylor: Yeah, absolutely. I appreciate you having me.