Owner: Justin Machus | Manager/Glue-That-Holds-It-All-Together: Huyen Hoang.
Stats: 5th generation retailer with a successfully launched online business, previous owner of Local 35 and previously listed on GQ’s top 100.
Bold Claim: Machus runs high-end streetwear retail game like a Rasta sprinter and as men’s clothing shops go, in the Portland area–there ain’t no other like it. Period.
The Secret? Brevity.
Granted, there are shops that do well at carrying both men’s and women’s, but when it comes to crisply curated menswear styles at accessible price points in addition to some of those aspirational brands that you NEED (not just want), Machus has you covered. Concisely.
I had a chance to catch up with Justin and what follows are about 20 minutes in brief with Machus’ owner, Justin Machus:
JM: How’s it going?
TS: It goes good—thanks for the call. I did a bit of research on you and given you’re a 5th generation retailer with prior success with your previous venture, being on GQ’s top 100 list of retailers and such were there reservations or pressures about doing something that had already been done?
JM: I grew up in the retail business so I knew from the very beginning how to run a store and how to sell—I grew up with my Mom in Madison, Wisconsin and she is super successful and has had a shop for almost 30 years now and she was more product driven. My Dad had one as well and he was more aesthetically driven and had more of a high-end European concept, so I had both backgrounds to draw on. My mom’s retail concept was successful in terms of being product driven and doing a lot of volume and my Dad’s shop was more focused on aesthetics, so I knew that I wanted to draw on both ideas but with my own twist—and my own aesthetic interests.
TS: I was chatting up Huyen Hoang, your manager and talked with her briefly about her about her experience and how she came to be at your store as well—
JM: Yea—Huyen had worked with my Mom at her shop back in Madison, Wisconsin. She worked there in high school and throughout college and then chose to come to Portland to help me with setting up the new store given her retail experience. She was originally going to come out and manage and just set up the new store and then she was going to go back, but she’s just really good at running the shop, doing the bookkeeping and the financials for the store and all that—basically all the stuff that I’m not awesome at and she’s really taken ownership of those aspects of the store.
TS: Everybody’s got their strengths right?
TS: So why did you almost exclusively decide to do a menswear store?
JM: I did men’s and women’s (clothing) at Local 35 and realized that while I was okay with buying women’s for the store—and I did pretty good, I did it because that’s what I thought I needed to do for the store to work. When we switched to Machus, the new store, I started crunching numbers and saw that given the retail space I had versus the volume of the store and how buying patterns work, and the total red and total black of things, I found that women are thrifty and their buying patterns are different. With guys, I’ve been lucky enough to establish a great client base that come in the store and buy what they want and move on with their life—you know? They buy things that we have that are hard to find, are well made and where the guy really understands that the fit is better and is all around better for the guy—women shop around and tend to go more for the sale and the idea of shopping seems more disposable.
(Inversely) I have an amazing, small group of women that are very loyal to the store and because of that I’ll probably stay with women’s just to see how it’ll go for a couple of seasons, but now I have one rack of women’s that consistently sells better. Especially now that it’s more concise—and though that segment of the store is 80% smaller, it is selling better proportionally– but I’ll just keep paying attention to the numbers and see where it goes from here…Like I said, no matter what I’m selling, I’m not doing this because it’s some hobby or something—it’s my career. If it’s going to hurt the store, I’m not going to do it. For example if I’m going do a higher end concept, I’m going to do it in a way that creates a pattern for the customer—it’s not like I’m gonna go buy a bunch of Rick Owens main collection just to see how it’ll do and see if people will buy it and see what happens, just because I like it; I started with things (like with Local 35) that were pretty low-end for the customer to buy like skate crossover stuff and that sort of thing and invested in a core product that would always move then have a piece that was something to aspire to.
That’s how I tend to shop. If I go into as store that is completely overpriced its frustrating number one, and number two, the odds are I probably wont go back to that store, so it’s a matter of finding stuff that all mixes well together. ..
TS: When did you make that switch to roll with more designers and ranges that were a bit more niche and a little more high-end?
JM: Well that was the idea behind Machus was to have a location with better destination traffic and less casual walk-bys with more deliberate customers in a neighborhood that was a better cost per foot in an industrial neighborhood that justified a higher end retail concept. The online store was also part of that concept. I didn’t feel like competing with Nordstrom, Zumiez and Urban Outfitters anymore—It just didn’t make sense you know? So I got rid of all that stuff and focused on things that were harder to find but a great sell for the store like Naked and Famous and Saturdays—that’s like the bread and butter of the store right now—we have the brands that big box retailers aren’t grabbing onto but there’s also a lifecycle for those brands because as they blow up, they’re gonna be available at other retailers so were always looking for the next ”Saturdays” so to speak—there’s always that need to be ahead of the bigger stores but I have some brands that are sold at Barney’s and American Rag but there’s just no reason for a 1000 sq ft. store to go up against big retailers like Nordstrom and people like that—there’s just no point—but that’s the challenge and also what’s fun: finding that balance of everything…
TS: Speaking of balance, how would you define what your style is and where do you shop–?
JM: I tend to bring into the shop exactly what I want—I tend to go black white lately, but I’ve been mixing up that drop crotch thing and playing with proportions and stuff—but I don’t want to feel like I’m putting too much stuff on—I like things that are comfortable but functional and still have me feel put together, but not trying to hard you know?
I tend to go with more sportier stuff because I come from an athletic background but it rotates a lot—I’ll grab a few things here or there at Solestruck, but I’m full bore into my brand at the moment and I’m getting stuff that I’m head over heels for—I get exactly what I want to here at the store and bit by bit, I end up getting the things I want cause I’m all into this store. I’ll grab things here or there while I’m on vacation but for the most part I order everything I want from Machus….
TS: Thanks for the time in Justin—I’m an avid fan of the store, dig your sensibility and just want to say “Thanks “ for curating such a discerning spot and thanks again for the time in…
JM: You’re Welcome—It’s nice to know there are people who come around and appreciate what you’re doing—I appreciate the time too.
Photos: Tyrone Spencer