Across the street, less than a block from the department store their grandfather opened in downtown Miami almost half a century ago, Randy and Brian Alonso sat on an overstuffed couch talking about jeans.
At any given time, 80 percent of Americans are wearing them, Brian, 35, said. They come in a cut and price point for everyone, Randy, 30, added. And they take up most of the shelves of the brothers’ new concept store, Lost Boy Dry Goods, which opened in late August as an extension of their grandfather’s store, La Epoca, a Miami shopping staple since 1965 after Fidel Castro confiscated the original store in Cuba.
The brothers saw the need for the store in Miami, specifically downtown around their location at 157 E. Flagler St. in the historic Alfred I. DuPont Building, where many stores are locked after 6 p.m. and don’t cater to to a trendier city center.
“We’ve really lived it, breathed it — this whole area,” Brian said. “We really believe in it.”
Never miss a local story.
The store gives off a western hipster vibe, a tribute to denim’s roots in mining culture and to the Alonso family’s frequent vacations to Colorado while the brothers were growing up. Walk in, and you’ll spot the wall of jeans arranged by fit and categorized by designers, including Hugo Boss, Levi and Diesel. Because of the relationships the brothers maintain with designers through La Epoca, many of the styles are unique to the store. The other merchandise is the same hodge-podge of handpicked, high-quality pieces to mimic the feel of shopping in someone’s closet, said Randy, who oversees buying for the store.
The clothing transitions seamlessly to the decor and atmosphere. Original exposed brick covered many of the walls of the space, which was the location of La Epoca before it moved down the road to a former Walgreens. The dressing room doors were constructed from hard wood from an old barn in Colorado. The music bounced from folky Mumford and Sons over the speakers to a Bill Withers live vinyl, spinning on a wooden antique-looking turntable, also for sale, along with the bottles of hot sauce in the back with spice levels ranging from mild to tear-inducing spicy.
“The whole idea here is to make it more of an experience,” Randy said.
Aside from dressing up the people of Miami, the brothers hope to dress up the streets of Miami with the new store. Brian took over his late father’s spot on the Downtown Development Authority, a group of business and property owners who work to promote the economic prosperity of the downtown area.
The group is rolling out Flagler Streetscape in January to revitalize Flagler Street. The project will widen sidewalks and add more trees, furniture and lighting to create a more pedestrian-friendly space, taking note from popular walking areas like Rodeo Drive in Los Angeles and inspired by the time in Miami’s childhood when the street’s namesake — Henry Flagler — brought his railroad to the budding city and, with it, tourists and residents.
The brothers have already been an integral part of downtown’s shift to a more elegant atmosphere with the store expansion and their passion for the area, said Neisen Kasdin, vice chair of the DDA’s board of directors and co-chair of the Flagler Street task force. Outside of the authority, Kasdin helped revitalize Ocean Drive and Lincoln Road, experiences that give him perspective with the Flagler Street plan.
“The most important ingredient on both of those streets were the early investors and entrepreneurs who came in and were willing to help by changing the physical look of their stores and buildings by bringing in new kinds of merchandise or retailers,” he said. “So Brian and the Alonso family are very much doing that on Flagler Street and have been for a number of years. They clearly see that the street has a better future than it has today.”
And that’s the key: seeing a future with the historic perspective to preserve the past.
Back at Lost Boy, the brothers stood by an out-of-tune baby grand piano, similar to the upright at the entrance of the department store that started it all. The top of the piano was adorned with a jar of cotton. Randy plucked one out and dug his nails into the bundle of fiber, eventually pulling out a seed.
“This is how they used to do it back then,” he said. “It’s come a long way.”