Business

Gen X wants to be outfitter of 14- to 25-year-olds

By ELIZABETH CIEPIELA

Staff writer

After a three-month wait, businessman Chris Oh finally obtained a city permit for installing windows in his new store in Federal Way. The windows came after retrofitting the building’s foundation to make it earthquake-safe. And, finally, came the silver and white interior decor.

On Nov. 7, Oh was ready to give new life to the tan building on the corner of Pacific Highway South and South 320th Street. The former Good Guys location was reborn as Gen X, an apparel store geared toward 14 to 25-year-olds.

Why go through all that trouble?

“Location is number one,” Oh said.

He chose Federal Way because, he explained, his clothes are hip and inexpensive, and the city’s residents are predominantly middle class — a good match.

Cortez Butts, 18, of Federal Way, has shopped at the store several times. He said he likes the prices and the R&B music blasting through the speakers, and he “digs” the clothing styles.

While many Gen X customers are within the targeted age range, Oh said older clients sometimes browse, as well.

Spanaway resident Allison Jennings and her husband, Larry, visited the store for the first time recently. They were looking for outfits for their grown children — ages 19 and 22 — and grandchildren.

“All the kids, from my daughter down, like the clothes. There’s more than I expected,” Allison said. “A lot of selections.”

Their children like the trendy clothing style, and Allison said she’ll come back because the prices are in her range.

Oh describes the style as “hip hop” and “sporty.” He gets his inspiration from pop culture icons like MTV and orders ready-to-wear apparel from domestic and international companies to suit the current fashion mood.

The store is crammed with racks featuring basketball warmup outfits, leather coats, trendy shirts, shoes and socks, among other items. Gen X also sells luggage.

The interior is painted silver and white –– Oh’s idea.

If business here booms, Oh said he may expand and open more stores in Lynnwood, Bellevue and Tacoma.

But for now, he plans to keep an eye on what sells. For future style inspiration, he said he’ll look into “extreme sports” attire — clothes for skaters, skiers and snowboarders, or for those who just want to look like one.

Several Gen X stores already pepper the national landscape, including in Idaho, Oregon and Colorado. The first store — in Utah — was opened in 1998 by Oh’s brother, Gary.

The concept of marketing to teens and young adults is not new, and since the creation and success of the original Gen X store, Oh discovered the age group makes for a lucrative market.

“It’s a very good idea for a business,” Oh said. “Teenagers buy clothing. They’re interested in clothing all the time.”

Oh said he has always wanted to have his own business. He’s from a family of business owners. His brother John owned a successful clothing store in South Korea years ago.

The company’s Web site, www.genxclothinginc.com, features a message board where customers nationwide offer feedback on the merchandise.

There’s both praise and criticism, but the positive messages outnumber the negative.

Staff writer Elizabeth Ciepiela: 925-5565, eciepiela@fedwaymirror.com

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