CJ's Closet, 213 E Fifth Avenue, Knoxville, October 2021
A node of activity continues to expand on East Fifth Avenue near Central Street. Already the home to several breweries, as well as a new residential building under construction, CJ’s Closet, owned and operated by Geoff and Jennifer Yearack, becomes the latest business to land in the area. Adding to their Bat n Rouge business across the street, this new business will feature women’s clothing, with a special emphasis on a system for pairing the clothes.
The couple was attracted to the building because of the nice windows, right-sized space and ample parking. That it shares a parking lot with popular breweries Xül and Geezer’s Breweries was an added plus in their minds. Geoff said, “We thought it could have a cool retro vibe, which I think we have achieved.”
Geoff said, “This is a concept we’ve been talking about for about nine years.” In more recent years the concept refined itself. The idea is to combine clothes in closets, so that clothes that can easily be matched and coordinated are grouped together, with less need to walk all over the store looking for something that might match. “It helps the customer build a closet and everything purchased will be cataloged” digitally.
When asked, the store can produce what has been purchased before and help find items currently in stock that would complement those articles of clothing. They are targeting women from 17 up into the “fashionable fifty-year-old.” They’ve been inviting women in their target audience to come in and critique what they’ve stocked and have made some changes based on the feedback. “That’s why we are taking our time.”
Jennifer added they wanted to attract young professional women and college-aged women. Geoff said the feedback they have gotten feedback that the closet idea helps be able to shop more quickly. Jennifer said that some women struggle knowing which articles of clothing go well together and “we are trying to take the guess work out of it.” She said the clothing can also cross closets, but it is a starting area.
The store is a “proof of concept” store. They wanted it to be downtown both because “we love downtown,” (the store is within walking distance of their home), but they have plans for expansion of the concept, with stores planned for Asheville, Nashville, and Chattanooga, for a total of ten stores.
The store will have an online shop, and purchases there will be logged so that when shopping in person, those purchases will be accessible to coordinate with in-store shopping. When new items come into stock that would go well with particular purchases, emails are sent to the women who bought those items. “As we grow, we think we’ll get better and better.”
They said the name and the idea came from their daughter C.J. Geoff built her a closet when she was in high school, “an absolutely ridiculous high-schooler’s closet. We built her a walk-in closet that was 250 square feet in an attic space. She would spend hours in there coordinating outfits and building her wardrobe for the week. That’s where the idea came from to build a concept for a store around that.”
C.J. has helped with the buying. They’ve been to market and both found it to be more difficult than they anticipated. They said it is overwhelming and “you can’t just go in there and buy what you like,” Jennifer said. The couple said they spent nine hours a day looking and keeping spreadsheets of everything they had bought. “The vendors are great,” Jennifer said. They go back to market next week and will be shopping Atlanta, Dallas, and Las Vegas. “We’ll be more organized next time.”
Jennifer said the sales persons will be called stylists, and they will do more than simply try to sell product. She said they are considering having fitting appointment times outside of store hours for personal styling sessions with one of the workers. She said it would be like having a personal shopper and starts with signing up online and supplying information that might allow the stylist to pull possibilities before the customer arrives.
The couple said that all of their ventures have happened organically. They also own RCN Technologies located near Old Gray Cemetery. “I can’t tell you how excited we are. I didn’t try to get into the technology business, I just happened upon it. I didn’t try to get into the make-up and lash extension business. We just happened upon it . . . This we’ve been planning for a long time.” He said the first two businesses were sound financial decisions, but “this is more of a passion project.”
He added that much of what they are doing “has to do with our comfort level with Knoxville. We came to Knoxville over ten years ago and felt comfortable here . . . we have not had any trouble finding talented people.” They say they’ve lucked out finding Jennifer Ford who will manage the store and just moved to Knoxville, bringing with her lots of experience.
Average items will run $40 to $50, with some above and below. They wanted to shoot for a mid-range with prices. They will have extra small to large sizes, with a small amount of extra large sizes. She said they may expand into larger sizes depending on demand. A center-piece of the store will be a featured wall of jeans, with 420 pairs of jeans averaging around $69.
The grand opening will be October 18. Initial hours will be 10 am to 8 pm Monday through Thursday, 10 am to 9 pm Friday and Saturday, and noon to 6 pm on Sundays.