Ulah Men’s Store owners open women’s apparel, lifestyle store





Luna By Ulah offers mixture of high-end, mid-range fashions





Joey Mendez and Buck Wimberly, co-owners of Ulah men clothing store, are excited to partner with Elise Alexander in creating a new women clothing store named Luna by Ulah.



BY JOE ARCE AND COREY CRABLE


It’s not often that you hear about local businesses growing and expanding their operations during a global pandemic, but the owners of Ulah Men’s Store have brought the impossible to life.


Joey Mendez and Buck Wimberly, co-owners of Ulah, recently celebrated their store’s fifth anniversary by opening a partner store aimed at women – named Luna By Ulah, the women’s apparel and lifestyle store is conveniently located just a couple of doors down from Ulah in Westwood, KS.


Mendez and Wimberly have enlisted the help of friend and fellow fashion enthusiast Elise Alexander in managing Luna, which has been in demand by loyal shoppers for years.


“Since we opened Ulah five years ago, our female customers have been asking for a women’s store,” explains Mendez. “Since we were a men’s shop, we were hesitant for a while. But we kept hearing it over and over. We were friends of Elise and grew close to her and her family. We talked to her and she was super interested. We spent all spring and summer just working on it.”


That included many buying trips, during which Mendez, Wimberly and Alexander carefully considered what brand and styles to include in their new store.


“With Elise’s perspective, and as we went out to looked at designs, that’s when it became tangible,” Mendez says. “I could see some of our current customers (in these designs) and that’s when it clicked with me. We were creating a female version of what we’ve done at Ulah. With Elise’s help – that’s how we pulled it off.”


All three owners describe Luna’s products as a strategically-crafted mix of higher-end designers and affordable styles that won’t empty your wallet. “We want to push the envelope a little bit. We want to be edgy and have something different. When we go out on buying trips, it’s important to find special details in the clothing,” Alexander says. “We’re mid-range. We have some more affordable lines and some pricier lines. … We want everything to be accessible – different ages, different genders, different tastes, different style levels.”


Over the past year and a half, as they long considered bringing the concept of Luna to life, Mendez and Wimberly say they had to close Ulah for two months as most local businesses did, due to the pandemic. And instead of struggling, Wimberly says they were able to successfully adapt their operations to the new world in which they found themselves. They had no other choice, Wimberly and Mendez note.


“In our men’s store, we closed for a couple of months and we tried to focus online and ramp up our social media,” Mendez says. “We ended 2020 strongly, and this year’s been really great. It took four years to get some loyal business, but now that we have that, our growth has been really strong.”


The two men say they tried to view the pandemic as an opportunity to grow, instead of as a situation of which to be fearful.


“I think we learned early on that when you’re confronted with obstacles, you can cower and be afraid of them or you can face them and try to evolve, and that’s what we’ve continued to try to do,” Wimberly says.


In addition to leading Ulah and getting Luna off the ground, Wimberly has his own interior design business tied to the Ulah name. Called Ulah Interiors + Design, he says the business has mostly served residential clients but recently has picked up commercial clients as well.


“We also cross-market with businesses,” Wimberly explains. “In Ulah you’ll see the TV behind the bar and the home section in the back that promotes Luna, and I have an interior design space where I’ll meet with clients.”


All three of the businesses have a robust presence on social media, too. You won’t find any purchased followers there, unlike big-box stores, Wimberly says. Instead, he, Mendez and Alexander earn their followers by establishing a relationship with every shopper who walks through their doors.


“For us, we’re really big on not buying followers when it comes to social media,” Wimberly says. “Our followers have grown organically. We know they’re true followers and genuinely interested in our business.”


The good working relationship between the owners is evident in the friendship they share, Alexander says, and she says she feels thankful to fit in with Ulah and Luna’s mission to dress clients well.


“This wasn’t what I imagined I would do, but it has become the happiest surprise for me. Buck and Joey have been wonderful teachers. Joey has taken me under his wing and really taught me so much about what makes a great store,” says Alexander, who spent the last two decades as a stay-at-home mother and now describes her relationship with Mendez and Wimberly like a family. “I was never scared, because they are such wonderful businesspeople. By way of example, they’ve shown me what kind of businessperson I want to be moving forward.”


Ulah’s loyal customers have helped spread the word about Luna’s arrival, which made the store’s grand opening a great success for Mendez, Wimberly and Alexander.


“It was really exciting,” Wimberly says of Luna’s grand opening. “It’s been a hard push to get it all done, but we worked together as a team. It’s been great to have the support of people who have shown up – all of our followers and clients and people they’ve told about it.”


Now that the owners have realized their vision for the new store, Alexander says they know their hard work has paid off every time they see a customer walk in the door, looking for new workout clothes or an outfit for date night.


“What made this most exciting for me is watching people come in and really value the vision we’ve put together for the past six or eight months or more,” Alexander says, “and it’s turned out exactly the way we wanted it to.”


Both Ulah and Luna are open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 12-5 p.m. Sunday. Visit the stores online at www.ulahkc.com and www.shoplunakc.com.