WATERLOO — When Jorge Garcia was 16, his parents — who run Waterloo restaurant and store La Michoacana — set he and his good friend Dayton Nelson up with their own place, a vacant storefront in downtown Waterloo.
“We kind of hung out in there,” Garcia said. And they’d invite their friends too.
“We would tell people we were at ‘the spot,’” Nelson said.
So when the pair decided to open up their own storefront — this time, an actual business owned by Garcia — they didn’t want to lose the hangout vibe.
“We wanted it to be like how it was when we were kids — we could hang out,” Nelson said.
Now, the pair tells everyone to come to The Spot, at 621 Sycamore St., both to hang out and play video games on leather couches in the spacious retail establishment. They can browse the high-end urban streetwear catering to teens and twentysomethings looking for the latest Yeezy sneakers, Supreme brand clothing, skateboards, accessories and unique vintage apparel.
Garcia and Nelson, both Waterloo West graduates, have been buying and reselling online for years, using eBay as their platform. They realized there was a market for a physical location in the Cedar Valley.
“We were looking into Cedar Falls, but we’re both from Waterloo — we might as well stay here and start something,” Nelson said.
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They chose to locate on Sycamore Street between East Fourth and Fifth streets, an up-and-coming block in downtown Waterloo that is home to Newton’s Paradise Cafe and the Brown Derby Ballroom, as well as newer retail stores and restaurants like Boujee Berries next door and Rodney’s Kitchen across the street and the new contemporary art gallery, Marin Gallery.
“It’s kind of growing down here — I like the area,” Garcia said. “We just wanted a downtown feel, more of a city feel.”
The Spot attracts a younger crowd willing to shell out for the latest and greatest shoes and apparel and offers them the chance to trade in or sell their own merchandise. Once a piece comes in, it’s likely the only one of its kind, so those following The Spot’s Instagram feed are the ones most likely to get their hands on it. An especially rare pair may be raffled off.
“It’s different every day,” Garcia said.
The store has brought in customers from all around the state. But Garcia and Nelson are also looking for a local following: They’re offering a free crewneck sweatshirt featuring either the Waterloo West or Waterloo Columbus logo mixed with The Spot’s own brand, Breezevisual, to anyone from those two high schools who shows a valid school ID. (Waterloo East and Cedar Falls sweatshirts are also in the works.) Non-students can pick up the sweatshirt for $20.
“We want to give back to the community,” Garcia said.
Store hours are from noon to 7 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, and Nelson said The Spot will eventually have its own online presence. Garcia said he’s also looking to grow the store, including more women’s apparel.
“A lot of women like to wear guys’ clothing, but we want to get a wider selection for them,” Garcia said.