A dream has become brick-and-mortar reality for Buck Wimberly and Joey Mendez, the duo taking ULAH from Instagram underdog to Westwood success story.
“We wanted the brand to feel sophisticated, accessible and friendly,” explained Wimberly, co-owner of ULAH — a men’s apparel and lifestyle store, tucked within the Woodside Village Shops along Rainbow Boulevard.
A craft of curation, Wimberly and Mendez — partners in business and in life — each played to their strengths as they envisioned a space that would break the mold and give men a place to outfit every facet of their lives, they said, leaning over the store’s sales counter as customers browsed the industrial-modern space.
“We’ll hear, ‘I can’t think of another store that’s like this,’” Mendez said of customers’ reactions to ULAH, which features a masculine and refined mix of high-end and local fashions alongside ruggedly chic homegoods and furniture.
“Although the idea of a men’s boutique isn’t unique, [the difference is in] our offerings and the way we curate it and the experience … that we try to [stand out],” he continued.
Manifested into a physical shopping experience, ULAH began as a social media brand, quickly gaining the attention of some 4,400-plus Instagram scrolling supporters, the pair recalled.
Click here to check out ULAH’s Instagram, which features Kansas City models, Ruby Jean’s Juicery founder Chris Goode, and former Kansas City Royals catcher Drew Butera.
“We try really hard to make it as much of a reflection of our in-store experience as we can digitally,” Wimberly said.
An appearance on the Netflix original series “Queer Eye” — which filmed its third season in Kansas City over the summer and early fall of 2018 — also helped the duo showcase their growing business.
Buying the brand
Despite a strong show of support on social media, a modern entrepreneurial problem has presented itself for ULAH: converting double taps into dollar signs.
“People are fans of our Instagram that have never been in [the store],” Mendez opened up, sharing the current challenge the brand is working to overcome.
“Not that every follower is going to be a customer … but hearing people say ‘I’m fans of your Instagram’ — but they’ve never been in. I think it has been surprising,” he continued.
First a fan, then a customer, it’s often easier to digitally show support for entrepreneurs in the modern small business landscape, Wimberly said.
“Our mode of operating is … we become followers of brands that we have already bought into — by buying their products or you know, participating in something. So it’s kind of just something new for us to digest when people are doing it the other way,” he explained.
Beyond a brand with a strong following, ULAH stands to achieve something greater, Wimberly made clear; it’s a platform for elevating local entrepreneurs.
“I’ve learned to really appreciate that while we have an appreciation and a strong connection to local — we also have the international brands, regional brands, the national brands,” he added. “I think putting those things next to the local facets of our store … it’s able to give a further reach to these local makers and local brands.”
Kansas City-area goods found at ULAH include such brands as Charlie Hustle and MADE Urban Apparel, alongside St. Louis-based The Normal Brand.
Click here to shop the store’s current collection.
Built for communication
Shopping local has long been important to the couple who formerly worked for Kansas City-built Halls department store and Hallmark — where they met. Both experiences served as great sources of inspiration for ULAH, they noted.
A Kansas City native, Mendez said building a local brand alongside Wimberly — a Texan by birth who adopted the metro as his hometown in the 1990s — has made the entrepreneurial journey all the more meaningful.
“I knew we could do it because we work so well together. … Our biggest challenge is not working, it’s going home and being a couple. That’s the tough part,” Mendez opened up about the sacrifice involved in working with a significant other.
“[We’re always] working to compliment each other,” Wimberly added. “So you can think of a Venn diagram. We have a huge overlap, but there’s enough on the outside fringe of this that we’re still bringing unique things to the table and our roles are very different.”
Communicating is the key to success for the couple — both in life and in their mission for ULAH, they said.
In the world of ULAH’s duo of design, fashion is among the most powerful forms of communication, they explained. ULAH offers the men of Kansas City an opportunity to say something interesting.