The Mount Airy retail community has a new kid on the block — make that two kids.
Kaley Brooke Umstead and Austin Juno haven’t even graduated from high school yet — both are seniors at Mount Airy High School — but that hasn’t stopped them from launching a joint business venture.
They opened a new store earlier this month in 52 Thruway Shopping Center, located across U.S. 52 from Mayberry Mall.
Juno Clothing/Kaley Brooke’s Creations occupies Suite 449 in the center at 455 N. Andy Griffith Parkway and reflects their differing interests.
Austin specializes in men’s and women’s clothing, including some of his own design, and Kaley in vinyl products such as pocketbooks, monograms, advertising signs, decals and heat transfers.
“We’ve been friends forever,” Kaley, 18, said in explaining how the business with Austin, 17, got started.
“He’s had his for quite a while,” she added of Austin’s clothing enterprise which up to now has been marketed through his own web site. It includes shirts, hats and other items.
Meanwhile, Kaley’s work with vinyl creations began only a couple of months ago as a result of a move by her father, Tom Umstead, which had unintended consequences.
“Actually, my dad bought a machine I use,” she said of a vinyl cutter used in her operation.
However, he had obtained it instead for Kaley’s mom, Angela, who had no interest in the cutter, which Kaley subsequently embraced with vigor and began making various items.
Began with conversation
The idea for launching Juno Clothing/Kaley Brooke’s Creations also came about in a rather circuitous manner.
“It started with just a random conversation,” Kaley said, which occurred at – of all places – the scene of a recent house fire that the two youths watched with their fathers. It occurred in the vicinity of Edgewood Drive, where Austin’s dad, Bill Juno, owns a Subway restaurant.
“Our dads are best friends,” Kaley explained.
One thing led to another as a result of that conversation, and pretty soon the plans were laid to open the store at the 52 Thruway center.
Bill Juno actually owns the building housing it, while Kaley’s dad renovated the interior to accommodate the new business.
A grand opening was held at the store on April 16. It drew a crowd of shoppers eager to take advantage of special discounts and raffles while also helping the teens get off to a good start in the sometimes-daunting world of free enterprise.
Kaley was enthusiastic about going into business with Austin, but there naturally was some apprehension on the part of the two budding entrepreneurs, which could be expected with anyone owning a store for the first time.
“We were very nervous and stressed,” she said of launching the enterprise, which has been smooth so far.
One of the challenges Kaley and Austin face is juggling their class schedules, as both are still students at MAHS.
While Austin is in a demanding pre-calculus program, Kaley says she is fortunate to have a school schedule that includes online courses and allows her more flexibility to work at the store.
Her long-range plans include pursuing a career as a special education teacher, but for now making the store successful is a primary goal.
It is open each Monday through Friday from 3:30 to 6:30 p.m. and on Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Kaley and Austin have relied on social media to help spread word about the store, along with an old-fashioned method, distributing fliers around town.
Major retail chains such as Abercrombie & Fitch and JC Penney started with a single store. And no one knows where Juno Clothing/Kaley Brooke’s Creations could lead its two operators, who are now simply happy about the opportunity to be in business together.
“It’s so exciting,” Kaley said.
Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.