March 14--Fourth in a series of stories included in the latest edition
of Inclusion magazine, a Courier publication devoted to the diversity of our community.
WATERLOO, Iowa -- One has to look inside the oyster to find the pearl. The same is true in any neighborhood in Waterloo.
Take the several blocks of Logan Avenue that runs parallel to U.S. Highway 63. Nestled in that off-the-beaten-path neighborhood is a family run business -- Tri-City Clothing, 713 Logan Ave.
Make no mistake, its customers know where to find it -- and have for 31 years. It is a "destination" business. The building, believed to be about a century old, previously housed a barber shop.
It all began when founder Harry Carson, a traveling apparel salesman, decided to stop traveling.
"He opened this up as a warehouse originally," his wife, Renee Carson, said. "Then people started coming in. Every time he was in here, somebody would come in. Then he decided to open it up as a store."
Now the business, which has a considerable inventory of athletic and men's fashion apparel, plans to gradually expand and utilize more space within the building and add a women's boutique, said the Carsons' daughter, Shatora. She is an East High School and University of Iowa graduate who previously taught kindergarten in Omaha, Neb. She returned here to help with, and eventually run, the family business, where she trooped around at her parents' heels as a little girl -- just as her daughter, Trinity Jones, 4, now does at hers.
"I've always wanted to run the family business," she said. "I've always been into clothing and fashion. I was doing a little bit on the side in Omaha, then this opportunity presented itself."
"We're working on a website, finally. It's almost done. We're on Facebook and Twitter. I'm just coming in and trying to make things more modern and up to date," she said.
Men's suits and fashion apparel lines also have been expanded.
"It was part of it, now it's a bigger part" of the store's inventory, Renee said. It's the kind of clothing one may have to go to a larger city, like Chicago, to find.
Business is good, Renee said. "We can't complain. The customers are very diverse. We have a wide variety of customers. We have a lot of shipping out of Waterloo, too," to places as distant as Arizona and Hawaii.
"Some of it is Facebook, but some of it was people who lived in Waterloo and might have relocated. We still have those customers who call back and place orders," Shatora said.
"I think we have more of a customer base; more customers than we had," Renee said. "A lot of it is word of mouth. And a lot of people wonder why we've stayed in this location as long as we've been. It's working. Right here, it's working.
"We really haven't had any major, major problems over here," Renee added. "Everyone thinks because of the area, and because Logan has a bad name, that we would have a lot of problems. We actually don't." Renee is a co-chair of the Common Ground Neighborhood Association.
Shatora added, "My father knows this area and the people in this area and he helps a lot of them out. It's like a family-oriented neighborhood. At lot of people know him."
Long term, Shatora said, the Carsons want to upgrade the building appearance as more space is utilized. "A lot of TLC," she said. "There will be a big difference in the store. We're doing renovations all the way around, when we get time and it kind of slows down. You'll see a lot different things within this next year -- bit by bit and piece by piece, just working. The plans we have for it are going to be really nice."
Harry Carson said it's great to have another generation willing to run the business.
"We've been in this location for a long time," he said. "We like the location OK. We'd like to do some improvements. It's close to downtown. We know everybody. It's a central location. People know about us, especially the older generation. I've got people that come in from out of town; I ship to them.
"We do all right. Some of the younger ones come along, they don't know like the older ones do," he said.
But Shatora is taking care of that.