This is the fifth of five interviews with small business owners at their boutique shops on Bergen Street, Brooklyn.
Shop: Private Stock
Wares: Affordable modern clothes, footwear, and merchandise.
Location: 458 Bergen Street
Woody Pierre, what was the motivation behind Private Stock? There was a big demand for contemporary men’s clothing in the area, and we always had men’s clothing at our women’s location La Vedette, which was a little cramped up. So we decided to branch off and open up a men’s clothing store.
What was the idea behind the name? Private Stock is a malt liquor. When I was a teenager that was the drink of choice. You just put it in a brown paper bag. There was nothing classy about it, and that was like our drink of choice. It wasn’t Cristal, or anything like that. And that is kind of my target market: the guy that was cool back then and is older now, but still wants to be cool. I don’t know if you’re a fan of Biggie Smalls…
Of course. He has a verse: “I let my tape rock ‘til my tape popped/Smokin’ weed and bamboo, sippin’ on private stock.” So it’s like, you want to keep your same swag now that you had before. It’s traditional stuff. Private Stock, to me, is kind of a tradition of being cool and hip. A lot of guys think that once they get past 40 they need to wear hard bottom shoes and a blazer, but you can still be cool and hip, which is the type of stuff we sell. Our price points aren’t outrageous. It’s not logo or brand driven. It’s just cool, nice stuff that you can wear without worrying about flashy labels. We carry Levi’s, Wrangler, Converse, so when you come in here you say, “Oh wow, I remember this from when I was a kid.” As opposed to, “What the hell is this? Is this what everyone is wearing now?” And they get scared away as if this is a youth store—something for my son and not me.
As an African-American small business owner, does it present extra challenges opening up your own business? Oh, definitely. We started off from the bottom up. My fiancée and I had a space over in Bedford Stuyvesant a couple of years ago, and the rent was really dirt-cheap. We saved up, and the hurdles we faced when looking to move to Park Slope were people discriminated because we were younger and were people of color, and this is Park Slope, which can be kind of eerie. But thanks to my landlords, it’s a co-op owned building, we were blessed to get a chance. The people who own the building are really old, and I don’t want to call them crazy but you wouldn’t consider them to be your average landlords because the city gave them the building. So no one else really inquired about the space. They felt that the owners were weird people, and it was like a personal blessing because it was the weird people who gave us our opportunity.
”Weird” people are usually cool people. Exactly. I love my landlords to death. And the Pintchiks—the people who own this whole strip—they had a plan for this block. So they used La Vedette as a reference, and they could see what I was doing and gave me the chance.
The Pintchik’s? Matthew and Michael. They’re two brothers, and they own a lot of property in Park Slope. Their dad had property, and they own the famous Pintchik painting place on the corner (Flatbush and Bergen). They wanted to have a cluster of small businesses on this block and build up a whole shopping outlet in the neighborhood.
The clothes you sell have a blend of urban sensibility and more formal designs. I guess you could say more gentlemen’s wear. And that seems to me like a fashion trend in hip-hop, in general. I think it all started in the NBA when they wanted players to wear suits to games, and it was kind of like a whole movement. Hip-hop culture wanted to get a lot more mature—a lot more gentlemen like. So that’s why I refer to us as “Private Stock the Gentlemen’s Shop.” We found that bow ties are pretty cool. It’s cooler than having a tie, because it just kind of sets you apart.
Do you use any local designers? We carry a friend of mine who does a t-shirt brand called Kaiser. And Downside Up. We also carry Brooklyn Circus, which is another local shop in the neighborhood and another friend of mine so I support him and bring in his stuff. We also have our in-house brand Private Stock, which is mainly t-shirts and hats.
About the neighborhood, it’s a different vibe here by 5th avenue then on 7th avenue. Is your store indicative of that more “hip” section of the Slope? It is. 7th Avenue is a lot older, more family orientated. I actually was brought up in this neighborhood. I lived on Sterling, between 6th and 7th avenue all my life. So I’ve seen the changes. They used to have prostitution on the corner. Even on Union St. and 5th avenue growing up and going to school, you had to walk past drug dealings and all that other stuff. So this block has seen change. I’m still for the neighborhood so when I opened up the shop there wasn’t a place where I could make tons of money. I just wanted to create a lifestyle where, you know what, this is where I’m at and this is what I’m doing. If you fit in, come in. A lot of people think, “Oh, you’re in Park Slope? You must be making a lot of money.” And I tell them, I’d be making a lot of money if I were just selling expensive stuff, but I’m not. I’m realistic. I’m here to cater to the neighborhood from where it used to be back then. That’s why it’s called Private Stock. Like I told you, it’s all traditional stuff.
How to get there: Use the Hopstop link below for specific directions. (Private Stock, 458 Bergen Street, Brooklyn, 718.230.0055)