At age 17, Jonathan Freedman asked if he could buy the overstock items of a popular clothing brand near his home in New York. He then sold them to friends for a profit.
Soon afterward, Jonathan joined his two older brothers, Charlie and Bill, at Brigham Young University in Provo, where the trio sold liquidated clothing and home furnishings. The first store of their own, DownEast Outfitters, opened in 1991.
“Now, every company has an outlet,” says Jonathan. “Back in the early ‘90s, it was a real novelty.”
The company name is a nod to their roots. Growing up in New York, they would often drive up the breathtaking coast of Maine and enjoy whitewater rafting and kayaking. The “Down East State” is one of Maine’s nicknames.
Each brother served an LDS mission, and, while many years have passed since they started their business, and they still work happily together. Jonathan now oversees their own clothing production, and Bill manages furniture production. With his law degree, Charlie is their general counsel and handles the company’s expansion.
Their mentor and “personal Yoda,” as Jonathan calls him, is their father, Eugene.
“He’s always encouraged us to be industrious and creative. He’s a lifelong entrepreneur himself.” In fact, as a young man, Eugene noticed that cosmetics for African American women’s skin tones weren’t available. And he had searched throughout the world. He was the first person to develop and sell them. Eugene is chairman of the board at DownEast.
Marketing director Amanda Apple says of the Freedmans, “They’ve never been a single dollar in debt. They’re just very smart businessmen.”
The family doesn’t like to overpay. “We were our own customer,” Jonathan says. They are committed to their tagline, “high-style, low-price.”
Currently, 67 stores dot seven western states. With a new store in North Phoenix, Arizona now hosts 10 of them. They plan to add 10 to 15 stores each year over the next several years, and propel eastward.
The DownEast clothing label is sold at locations called DownEast Basics, often found in malls.
DownEast Home and Clothing stores carry full furniture and clothing collections. Besides DownEast Basics and girls’ apparel, called Penny Candy, they offer liquidated name brand clothing from other vendors for women, girls, and men. Furniture and home accessories are sold too.
“It’s very charming furniture,” says Amanda, speaking of their own creations. And, yes, home decor treasures from other popular name brands are found at significantly reduced prices.
Amanda says they’ll have new “door busters” every Friday in December. At extremely low prices and limited quantity, those attractive items will quickly go out the door to lucky shoppers, she says.
Visit www.downeastbasics.com to shop or for store locations.