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Citizens of Humanity, AG, Rag & Bone— no matter the brand, wash, or fit, Ira Blum knows his denim. 40 years ago the man founded Tupelo Honey in a small shop in Aventura, and since then he's been outfitting the tushes of indigo lovers all the way to South Miami. Hell, Eric Clapton even wrote a song about the store, but you'll have to click through to get the whole story.
This year was a big one for Tupelo. They said goodbye to their original store, where they had been selling denim for almost four decades, and hello to a lighter, airier space in Town Center Aventura. Although Ira's seen brands and styles come, go, and come back again (however we're not positive male bellbottoms will be coming back anytime soon…), a few things haven't changed. Literally everyone who works there is family, and if they aren't family they've worked there so long they're practically considered part of the clan, and Ira still has the same commitment to providing classic, timeless, quality styles to his customers that he always has.
Why did you found a denim store?
We opened our first store in 1970, and we've had three or four locations in South Florida. In the 80s was when we opened Tupelo Honey, and we now have two locations— Aventura and South Miami— carrying luxury lifestyle merchandise.
Did you always want to go into retail?
Yes. When we first opened, it was just the beginning of boutiques opening. Another type of shopping started to exist.
Well, denim is a lifestyle. Denim has a certain kind of culture, a certain kind of soul to it, and it's a fabric that's always in use.
What kind of denim do you carry?
Rag & Bone, J Brand, ATM, Citizens of Humanity, James Perse, AG, Mother— it has to have a certain feel. The fabrics are all important. They could be made anywhere, but it's the fabric and the wash that really separates us from everywhere else.
How has your store changed since you opened in the 70s and 80s?
It's evolved. Fashion's evolved, denim has evolved. The components to wear with denim have evolved. The look today is a very simple look that has a real lifestyle feel to it. It's something that you don't have buyers remorse. You don't buy it in September and then in March you say 'I'm sorry I bought it.' You're buying it, you're keeping it, you're wearing it, reusing it.
So rumor has it your store has inspired musicians. Spill.
I'll give you the short story. In the early 70s, Eric Clapton was recording in Miami. He came into our store looking for jeans. He bought a pair of Landlubber bell bottoms from us. He came back two weeks later and said he wrote a song that was on his album, and that song was "Bellbottom Blues." It was a love song about his passion for a woman, but the inspiration came from our store.
What was your favorite decade of denim?
My favorite decade was the 70s, but I would say [my favorite decade of denim is] today. Because it's much more technical. It's almost like champagne. You could buy different grades of it and we're really searching out to buy the best, the best quality.
You have a very niche store. You'd only come in here if you're looking for denim, in a certain style. What advice would you give other store owners who have the same kind of concentrated concept?
It's not easy to do. It takes a lot of experience and you really have to know the difference between all the brands, select the ones you believe in, and come out with the best mix possible.
What advice do you have for people trying to run a store with their family?
It's a challenge. It's a challenge because it's ongoing. It's a 24/7 conversation. I would advise it. I think it's a good thing to do, but I think you have to have a certain temperament to go along with it.
Now it's time for a little thing we like to call, the fire round.
Tequila or vodka?
8am or 8pm.
Definitely not 8am.
Loose fit or slim?
Light wash or dark?
If you were a dog breed, which dog breed would you be?
A lab. They're friendly.
If you were a vegetable, what vegetable would you be?
A tomato. Everybody likes them.
Winter or summer?
What's your favorite neighborhood in Miami?
What's next for the future of Tupelo Honey?
To stay relevant. To keep our clientele growing.