It has been a while since we have been able to highlight a local business that we love. And while there are many perks to no longer being on lockdown, one of the best is having the freedom to explore my city and explore new (or at least new to me) gems that are independent and local – as well as super cool.
Today’s business is Brother Friend, a lifestyle shop for men. Christmas is scarily close, and if you are like me, shopping for the man in your life is your biggest challenge. Brother Friend to the rescue! They had everything I could want for my music, whiskey, and bicycle-loving husband. Steve, my husband, is not into fashion and very early in our relationship said that I had the freedom to dress him however I wanted. Brother Friend has the exact vibe that I like to dress him in. The hat I am wearing in this photo is from Brother Friend, and I swear I bought it just for Steve this holiday. Yes, it is totally for him and him alone…..
You have seen Brother Friend on my IG quite a bit lately. I did a wine photoshoot there and people thought it was my home – I wish! But the story behind the store is cooler than the decor, as is the family that runs it. I sent a few questions to Tim, one of the owners not pictured below. That is Evan. Learn more about them, Brother Friend, and why they listed their dog as a valuable partner in the business!
A little bit of background, please.
First, we’re family. Evan’s the younger of two brothers. He’s a professional musician who married Elizabeth Griffin, Spring 2021. His creative gifts often show up in our social media posts. His work ethic shows up every day in his willingness to get his hands dirty around the shop and warehouse. He also helped configure our online presence and works with most of our vendor partners. Renaissance man, I guess–digital and analog.
His mom, Susie, and I have been together forever. She provided the startup money, provides coaching to us on aesthetics, and keeps us focused on the little things that make for great customer care.
Sunny, yeah the dog is part of us, is the greeter, and possesses the “knows no stranger” spirit we hope to reflect in our customer engagement.
I, Tim, focus on brand, marketing, play the lead on the product selection, and feel most responsible for the spirit of the company. I’ve always loved getting dressed and styling people. Whether it’s a friend suiting up for a major presentation or creating a new identity for the business—it’s about knowing who’s sliding into what and how they can find success there.
I would love to know the meaning behind the name, Brother Friend.
It’s from a song Evan and I used to perform together with camp bands. ”You’re my brother, you’re my friend” is all about being supportive of one another and acknowledging the special connection we have to one another. It’s a lifetime relationship, maybe more. Nobody is quite sure where the original verse came from and I’m sure we changed it, but we developed the melody and a hook for it. I bet we played that song 1000 times. We try to live the idea every day. Basically, “We’re here for you, friend.”
History and goals for Brother Friend. As I already know some of it, my followers will relate to wanting to have, “a small store that I live above and sell coffee while I spin tunes as my retirement plan.”
Originally a retirement goal, “a place where guys can find a nice pair of jeans and simple t-shirts while sipping coffee and listening to records,” the store became a “let’s do this now and build something together” reality.
I’ve started a few businesses. Tried to make all the mistakes. (Well, didn’t try but did it anyway.) But really, everything adds up. There is no 4 without 2+2 or 1+3. That shows up in how quickly we were able to launch a website; what we already knew but didn’t know we knew about identifying vendor partners; our storytelling; understanding customer satisfaction.
I mean the quick website launch is a product of having worked with a team in a previous business to build and maintain a lot of websites. The vendor partner knowledge came from collaboration with suppliers of all sorts in setting up a computer store, Susie’s volunteer work and administrative role in a children’s organization, and Evan’s work in food services; storytelling came from listening to hundreds of stories as we helped clients create brands (and still do by the way); and customer satisfaction? That’s a heart thing enhanced by years teaching IBM’s Commitment to Customer Satisfaction. It all adds up. Most people are already better than they know. They can start anything from right where they are. After all, where else are they going to start?
What do you want people to know about Brother Friend.
It’s not so much a thing I want to say as it is something I hope that they see and feel. Brother Friend is a values-driven brand. We are thoughtful about what we curate, create, and stock. We’re more thoughtful now than ever. Here’s what I mean:
I decided to stock a book based on the recommendation of a well-known men’s magazine (no, not that men’s magazine). I stocked it solely on that rec. That was a huge mistake.
A leader in our neighborhood was thumbing through the book and bought it. She came back to the store a week or so later to holiday shop for her adult sons, She asked me, “Why do you stock this book?” I explained the recommendation as she pointed me to the table of contents.
One of the chapter titles was highly offensive to me and more offensive to her. The leader is a black woman. The chapter title used a demeaning racially insensitive epithet. She didn’t raise her voice or draw attention to our conversation, but I immediately removed the book from stock. That is and will be the only thing we stock that someone here hasn’t had a personal experience using. Her example to me was invaluable.
Brother Friend values-driven? She is values personified. Oh, she still bought a couple of hundred dollars in gift items. That’s the type of story that won’t make the news. It’s the kind of story I want to live. The happy ending of her example, that is.
As life-long creatives, entrepreneurs what do you want people to know about starting their own thing/working for yourself (neither of you clocks in a 9 to 5 at a corporate office – at least anymore)? This is great for my readers because while my biggest following is in Tim and Susie’s (and my) age group, but Evan’s is a close second.
The best time to start something is now. Many people are waiting for the perfect time. Waiting for the stars to align. That’s not going to happen. We create the perfect time by beginning and doing the work. In most cases, the marketplace is going to have to catch up with us, but I prefer that to trying to catch it.
When I started selling personal computers for IBM, nobody knew what a PC was. When we started an agency to build websites, few people knew what that was. When I started doing speaking on creating a personal brand, most people thought that was just for young people on Facebook.
The world and I found an intersection of my beginning and their learning. I became a go-to person for many businesses and individuals. Of course, people have been buying jeans and t-shirts forever. There’s nothing like an Instagram shop to tempt you late at night. But we’re not here to tempt.
We believe that most guys would appreciate having a friend that knows a little about style, is interested in their interests outside of some e-commerce algorithm, and is willing to rap about things that might influence their choices over time. That happens in person. That happens in the community. That happens over time. And we think the world is going to return to that formula. And they are doing it now.
What are your favorite BF pieces and how do you like to style them?
The guys are our favorite pieces. What we do is use fashion elements to express their sense of style. For example, I believe in simplicity. So white, black, or olive t-shirt with blue jeans, or olive, black, gray, or tan pants. Same with jackets. Brown and black boots. Close your eyes, reach in the closet, grab three pieces, put your boots on and look like you put yourself together. Well, you did. And you look great!
Now I personally tend to push the boundaries just a little. Most guys my age won’t wear a pant that shows their ankle. They won’t pair those with a short sleeve sweatshirt. They aren’t going to wear a medallion on a necklace. But I try these things. There is no reason to look like everyone else. You can riff on the essentials and make a statement without seeming to try so hard. Take one piece of my style and work it into yours. Or take one piece of something interesting to you and add it to your wardrobe. If you started with the simple pieces, you’ll be able to accent the core without wearing a clown nose.
What is your favorite BF non-clothing gift?
Did you ever hear your favorite song on Spotify and think, “I don’t remember it that way.” Well, it wasn’t supposed to be heard that way. We love music in-person and if not in-person, then on vinyl. That love of the way it’s supposed to sound led us to partner with Groovy Wood Studios to curate and refurbish mid-century modern stereo systems. We have a large personal library of vinyl records and play them in the shop. We help others curate collections and find something groovy on which to play their favorite song. My life has a soundtrack. I bet yours does, too. We’d love to hear it.
What are a few items in your closet that you cannot live without/are really “you” in terms of your personal style?
Fashions change, style doesn’t. As mentioned, I believe in simplicity. If you must dress up, my go-to is a crisp white shirt, gray or dark two-button suit, and black tie. I can rock that, but prefer a good, clean one-color t-shirt, a cotton-canvas style pant (never khakis), a light jacket, and clean (not cowboy) boots like TOMS hillsides or a Vledskoen chukka boot. Fit matters. Get your shit altered, guys. We helped a guy choose his wedding suit online if he promised to go to the tailor with us. He paid about $300 for the combination. After the trip to the tailor, he looked like a million dollars. The suit was part of it, but the confidence he showed in how it fit and the way it moved with him was priceless. Oh, but back to my “cannot live without” items, on the weekend you might find me in a jogger, hoodie, and CLAE high-top sneakers. These things all have two things in common. One, they fit. Two, they are simple and allow me to move among all kinds of people in any kind of space.
Add anything you want my readers to know.
You don’t have to dress like every other guy. You have a style that works for you no matter your body type or lifestyle. While not everything we have at Brother Friend is for every guy, we listen to every guy and can help him curate a style that works for him every day. By the way, guys, wear what makes you feel right.
Thank you, Tim! I loved every word of it. Very inspiring. Be sure and visit Brother Friend on their website and/or on IG. If you live in the Austin area, you may shop in person at 2213 Poquito Street #108, Austin, 78722.
Photos by MK Ferguson Photography