In the niche: carrying Negro League gear is a marketing home run for House of Nubian – New York City retailer offers not only hip hop fashions but also apparel licensed from the League

In the niche: carrying Negro League gear is a marketing home run for House of Nubian – New York City retailer offers not only hip hop fashions but also apparel licensed from the League – Brief Article

Otis Robinson

Tourists and native New Yorkers walking along West Eighth Street in Greenwich Village are drawn to the House of Nubian. The six-year-old retail store has the latest styles in hip-hop and reggae fashions.

But its hottest selling item is the Negro League apparel line–baseball jerseys, jackets and caps from teams like the Homestead Grays and Kansas City Monarchs. Merchandise is priced from $20 for a cap to $250 for a jacket.

The head of the House of Nubian is 32-year-old Darryl K. McCray, whose father, Melvin, pitched for the Negro Leagues’ Norfolk Eagles. According to USA Today Baseball Weekly, an industry trade bible, Negro League apparel is a $2.8 million industry. While House of Nubian hasn’t been generating sales out of the ballpark, it did manage to bring home a gross $500,000 last year.

McCray founded the business in 1989, after quitting his job as a purchasing agent for Midtown Electrical Supply Co. He was faced with a major challenge not uncommon to many young entrepreneurs: finding a space to rent at a reasonable price that wouldn’t eat up his capital.

With $3,800 in his pocket and a vision, McCray came across a handbag store that was going out of business. The owner let him rent half the store for a $2,000 rent and security deposit up front, leaving him with $1,800 to stock about $1,200 worth of merchandise, pay rent on his own $1,000 a-month apartment and eat. “It literally cost me every penny I had,” he quips. But a year later the handbag store was closed down by city officials and McCray was on the hunt again for a new location. It wasn’t until February of 1993, in the aftermath of another lease deal gone bad, that House of Nubian moved to its current address.

Last year, McCray put together a catalog of House of Nubian products, which contributed $150,000 to 1994 sales. He now plans to put out a catalog of just the Negro League apparel.

COPYRIGHT 1995 Earl G. Graves Publishing Co., Inc.

COPYRIGHT 2004 Gale Group