What started as a home business quickly expanded to the point where Juan Lenton was looking for more space from which to run his operations, which led to the birth of Juan's Place — a new Newton business that officially opened June 8.
Juan's Place is what Lenton said he would categorize as an urban clothing store — something more prevalent in larger markets like Miami and Jacksonville, Fla., where Lenton lived before coming to Newton for work with the railroad last August.
"When I moved here, I couldn't find some of the fashions that I wore and liked. I went to Wichita and could find a few, so I had friends and connections down there and I just had the things shipped here to me and I'm able to offer quality products at a more than reasonable price. They couldn't beat these prices going to Wichita," Lenton said.
Items sold at Juan's place include belt buckles, watches, handbags, Nike shoes, sweatsuits and more.
Having the idea for the store — and putting his connections to more use — wasn't something that truly started to take shape until the start of this year. While Lenton's contract with the railroad expired, he admitted he grew fond of Newton and wanted to stay in the community.
After getting numerous remarks on the clothing items he was having shipped in from Florida, Lenton started to procure items for others and began selling merchandise from his home through yard sales a few months ago. That idea generated a lot of community interest and Lenton quickly outgrew his home business, leading to the opening of Juan's Place at 202 W. Fifth St.
Since opening his store, Lenton's business has continued to pique the interest of the Newton community and he hopes to continue providing goods that locals haven't been able to find before at decent prices (through his wholesale connections) — something he said that truly sets his business apart.
"The variety and the prices that I have, in relation to them traveling to Wichita or Kansas City to get them, is one of the big allures," Lenton said. "A lot of people are just curious. They want to see what it is, what you have."
Being located across from the rec center, Lenton said local youths have flocked to his store and helped spread awareness of the business and its wares (through social media outlets like Snapchat, Facebook, etc.). Admittedly, he noted that is his target market where a lot of business was coming from at his yard sales.
Knowing kids can be working with a limited income — and given his history growing up with swap meets on the East Coast — Lenton said he is open to working out deals so they can afford the gear he is selling.
Looking to go beyond that and return some of that support he has been shown by the community, Lenton said he is looking to open an adjacent car-detailing business that will provide another employment opportunity for local high school/college students while he is also hoping to lease out the back of his store to a similarly community-minded business.
"My whole outlook for my venture here in Newton is to support the youth of Newton, and so far I think it's going alright," Lenton said.
For now, though, Lenton will focus on the sales of clothing, accessories and more at Juan's Place, which is open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday and noon to 8 p.m. on Sunday.