Jerod Theobald, flow - a shop for men

Jerod Theobald, founder of flow - a shop for men, talks about how and why he set up his clothing shop in Covington.

Explain what services and items your business offers. 
Opened in 2011, flow - a shop for men features a curated selection of clothing and accessories for the urban gentleman. The shop stocks pants, shirts, denim, outerwear and accessories from a number of smaller, independent brands as well as a select number of golden and new age hip-hop albums on vinyl. 
How would you describe the philosophy behind flow - a shop for men?
Our philosophy is to make your style your own. There are no rules. There are no experts. A gentleman's flow may be inspired by others but remains uniquely his own. Our shop set out to do something different. Our customers set out to do the same.

Why did you choose Covington as your HQ?
Three years ago, I made the decision to move across the river and purchased a home in Covington. I spent nearly three years creating the concept for the shop and another 10 months or so scouting out locations in neighborhoods in Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky. Back in 2011, there was a lot of negativity swirling within Covington. I wanted to be a part of the turnaround in downtown by creating something special and helping change people's perceptions of the city. Covington is my home and the shop's home—I'm all in. 
How did you open up shop? Did you have much financial assistance? 
I think most entrepreneurs would agree it's a tough time to start a small business right now. There weren't any banks or lenders excited about loaning money to a guy with limited retail experience interested in opening a men's shop in this city. A large part of the business was self-funded, but the City of Covington stepped in to help bridge the gap. A small business loan from the city helped cover certain capital improvement and fixture costs, but my dad and I completed the build-out of the space on our own. There were a few delays along the way, but I'm happy with how things have turned out. It's been a lot of fun.
What local resources have proved vital to your business? 
A small business owner can spend thousands of dollars on advertising, but making connections and collaborating with others are key. Social media has really helped level the playing the field for smaller independent retailers and helps us connect and engage with our customers at all hours of the day. It's also important to collaborate with other local shop owners and organizations to build relationships, gain exposure and tap into their networks. There are a lot of great small businesses on both sides of the river—City Flea, Park + Vine, Sloane, Article, Corporate, District 78, frameshop, Hinge, and on and on—and the owners are excited to be a part of the change happening in this area. That energy and excitement is contagious and draws people in—people who support our shops and events and give all of the us the opportunity to do what we love.
Do you anticipate any exciting developments? 
Watching the developments in OTR and downtown Cincinnati unfold has been pretty amazing, but there are a number of exciting projects underway in Covington as well. In 2015, a new boutique hotel will open in the former City Hall building on Madison Avenue, and just this month UpTech, a business accelerator, moved their offices into a renovated space on Pike Street and a newly remodeled Kenton County Library re-opened downtown. Gateway College has also started construction on an $80 million dollar urban campus which is expected to serve more than 5,000 students each year by 2020. These projects, combined with other redevelopment efforts, the opening or expansion of several businesses, and major public and private investments in the city, have put Covington in a great spot going forward. There's no reason why Covington can't be a great city again.

Photo by Zackariah Cole Photography
Interview by Sean M. Peters