Karen Malanga: Hi, this is Karen Malanga with another edition of House Talk.
And today, I’m really, really happy to have AJ Cohen here. AJ and I have been friends for years. He’s lived in Bend longer than me. I came in 1995, and I think, AJ, you came in 1993. AJ and I have worked together. We’ve played together. And I always shop at his store.
There’s no better place in Central Oregon to buy a pair of jeans. And so, AJ, I’d like you to tell our audience a little bit just about how you started Local Joe, how long you’ve been doing it. I think one of the most wonderful parts about living in Bend is that whole fabric of downtown, having a boutique experience. It’s very, very special. And I don’t know anyone that does it better than you.
AJ Cohen: Well, that’s quite an intro.
Yeah, I moved here in 1993. And I was actually going to be a real estate broker because I have done that in LA for a while, about 6 ½ years. But I have been in the clothing business much recently when I moved here. I couldn’t find anything that was to my liking. So I decided it was the right time.
I then opened up over in Colorado in Wall, our first little store. And since then—actually, next month, it’ll be 20 years we’ve been downtown.
Karen: Oh, wow!
AJ: We’re coming up to our 24th anniversary.
AJ: We certainly appreciate all the support we’ve gotten from the community. Like any business, the economy has affected all of us, and the growth has affected us positively; sometimes, negatively. But all in all, it’s been a pretty good run. And we’re very happy to be there and be in our spot downtown.
And of course I met you when you came into the original store which was about 3 ½ years in Colorado in Wall. And you’ve been a lifelong customer since then.
And of course, you’ve also been great helping me with all my real estate needs which has been great.
Karen: Thank you, AJ.
AJ: Oh, my pleasure, always. I have a little stack of your cards at the store that I can give out to my customers like your friend who was just here…
Karen: Uh-huh, Jim, yeah.
AJ: Jim, yeah. We talked. I think you sent him to me actually.
Karen: Yeah! I sent him to you.
AJ: It goes both ways.
Karen: He needed a sweater this winter.
Karen: A lot of times, we’ll have clients fly in, maybe the weather changes, and they’re like, “Oh, my gosh! We’ll go to Macy’s,” and I’ll go, “Macy’s?! Go to Local Joe’s.”
AJ: Well, I think our downtown is special—not chain stores, not big box stores. Of course, online businesses have affected everybody. But we’re still here. And we’re still enjoying doing it.
And thing that’s nice to see is downtown Bend thriving again. When I first moved here, there was not much happening down there. And then, it grew a lot. And of course, with the economy struggling a little bit in the mid to early 2000s, but it has been coming back to life pretty nicely. There’s a lot of nice restaurants. Somebody comes to the Bend, we don’t send them to the chain stores.
AJ: They can get that anywhere.
Karen: They can get that anywhere.
AJ: And that’s about it. I mean, for what we try to do, we try to do the work for everybody and go find the things that we think would be right for Bend. In fact, I had one of my reps come to town yesterday. It was his first time here. And the discussion is always, “Oh, this is great. This is great. It’s great, but it’s not really great for Bend.” Bend is a different kind of place. You have to have the right things for the right customers here.
Karen: And you do! You have great lines of jeans. You have wonderful shirts. I love the Will bags.
AJ: Will is one of the many things that—of course, it’s an Oregon company which is great.
Karen: Yeah! I think you do hit that Bend lifestyle really perfectly. You can go into Local Joe, and you can walk out with an outfit that can take you from the end of the day into the evening very easily here. And that’s something that you can’t always find somewhere.
AJ: I’m always amazed when people come to town, I’ll recommend a restaurant or something, and they’ll say, “Well, can we go like this?” It’s like, “Yeah, you can…”
Karen: Yes, you can go like that.
AJ: You can go anywhere in Bend in jeans and shirt.
Karen: Yes, you can.
AJ: If you put a suit and tie, people are going to know you’re from out of town.
Karen: So AJ, how can someone find you and Local Joe? What’s the best way?
AJ: The best way is to just walk down on Wall St., which is pretty hard to miss if you can’t make it to Bend downtown. We’re right in the middle of Wall St. We’re right in the middle of downtown. So it’s pretty easy to walk by. Look for mannequins that are sort of vintage—‘40s, ‘30s, ‘40s, ‘50s mannequins…
Karen: …in the window, yeah.
AJ: …in the window, yeah.
Karen: And what’s your website?
AJ: The website is LocalJoeJeans.com.
Karen: I know! It’s a great website.
AJ: We just re-did it all. It’s not so much for shopping on there. It’s mostly for people to see the store, and then hopefully call us so we can give them some special attention as opposed to just picking a number and going off…
Karen: Well, I think with jeans, it’s really important to try those on.
AJ: That’s always been the main thing. And I’ve had a lot of people recently say to me, “I’ve tried buying online.” But it’s a really expensive pair of jeans. If you get a really inexpensive jean, and it’s not going to fit right, you’re not going to wear them.
AJ: So, you need to come in and have somebody who knows what they’re doing help you with them.
Karen: Thank you so much for being here today. I appreciate it.
AJ: My pleasure!
Karen: It’s great to see you.
AJ: Me too!
Karen: Not just for business, but as a friend.
Karen: And I think we’re going to be doing a photoshoot at Local Joe’s here pretty soon.
AJ: We will do that as soon as possible.
AJ: You have a very good-looking family. We’d like to get some pictures of that.
Karen: Thank you, AJ.
Karen: You take good care.