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Thomas Moss, interview notes

So I think this is Black folks last strong hold here in LA and we have something thatís definitely unique in the United States. Black folks have this real niche and you wouldnít think that, given how many Black folks there are, how are affluent Black folks have become in the last 20 to 30 years. Youíll think that we have some place that we could say, "Hey! Thatís the way Black folks do things." And this is it, so thatís what we are doing here, I donít think it is going to happen anyplace.
Thomas Moss, a co-owner of Taylor, Holland and Moss Distinctive Gentlemenís Wear, a store that has been open for approximately five years now. Moss is both a life-long resident and merchant in the area. He was born and raised in the heavily segregated African-American eastside of Los Angeles. Moss is currently a senior employee at a major aerospace engineering firm in Los Angeles. He resides in the local and adjoining hill side neighborhoods of Leimert Park. His business partners, Gary Holland and Bill Taylor, are both long-time friends who also grew up in the immediate area and have lead successful careers that have enable them to create this business partnership. Gary Holland is a realtor, a barber and a collector. Many of the unique decorations, such a stuffed deerís head and large gold framed original fight poster of Muhammad Ali, is from Hollandís attic. Bill Taylor is a senior railroad conductor. Thomas Moss also is an interior decorator and self-taught tailor. He personally took part in the creation and decoration of the elegant, split level store.

Creating a tailor store that was geared toward the more fashionably conservative and business minded in both womenís and menís dressing was a childhood dream of Moss and his partners. As a child he recalls "dressing in a button shirt and tie" for school and other every day occasions. As a professional, Moss remarks, "I live in the eastside, but I go to the westside to shop, because I could not find the clothes that I wear." Moss explains the practical rationale that spawned this idea.

One thing that made me go into this business was the price of clothes in the malls. They used to run me out of there. You know I like Armani suits as opposed to anyone elseís. And, I could hardly afford to buy one a year. I knew that I could custom make a suit for half of what I could pay for Armani. So I said, "Oh, thatís a business." So, itís funny how things would be in your mind and if you leave them there long enough and I guess if they are true enough in your mind, it will just happen. Because the time that we decided to do this, doing this was the furthest thing from my mind.ix
He was reminded of past conversations of starting a business together by his current partners and long time friends.

From the sidewalk, the retail space is first seen from its large window displays that encompass the entrance and allow a clear view of the storeís elegant atmosphere of dark wood paneling, subtle wall and floor coverings and neatly set merchandise. The store has been constructed in two levels, with the upstairs used as a smaller, more private dressing and measuring area. Patches of fabric, sketches and fashion magazines are carefully laid out for oneís viewing. Suits in various stages of completion are next to a large three-sided mirror and step stool, waiting for their respective bodies to clothe. Measuring tape, spools of thread, needles and other trick of the tailoring trade are methodically located nearby. From this high vantage point one can listen to the jazz music prevalent in the main sales area while peering down into it. Here dark colored, neatly pressed suits hanging meticulously on racks, or arranged stylishly on mannequins before looking out onto the street where pedestrians, tables with wares for sell and people seated around small patio tables and chairs.

This scene is a far cry from the previous use of this space, a storage space and the original location of Fifth Street Dickís Coffee House, which is now located three businesses away in a larger space on the same block. Moss described it as dusty, with "light fixtures hanging down to the floor, holes in the walls and cement floors" upon first setting eyes upon it. Obviously, he and his partners did not waver at this sight. Within the two years of purchasing the property and renovating it, Taylor, Holland and Moss Distinctive Gentlemenís Wear is doing very well. Their main methods of advertising are word of mouth, flyers sent out locally and street traffic. The latter is may perhaps be the best form of advertisement for the shop and the community as a whole. Moss explains that he, like others in the communities, one day realized that Leimert Park was diamond in the rough so to speak.

A lot of people just starting coming over to Leimert Park. There were a lot of art galleries and a lot happening here that you would pass by here all the times. But would never think these things are happening. Dance collective, Kongo Square and poetry. And you would just would never just think that "this" is happening right here. Because I have people that would come to our shop and say," Oh, I did not know that this was here. I pass by here all the time and I never really just looked this way. I guess I never really just looked." x
Moss describes his clientele as ranging from "brick layers to popular entertainers." His most well known client is probably Nancy Wilson, a former member of the Supremes singing group.

Explicit within Mossí comments is the reality of class differences between African-Americans who have become well established, and due to choice or involuntary segregation, live within close proximity of those who have fared too well. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. proposes that for "black America, these are the worst of timesÖand the best of times?"

However, Moss and his business partners venture into Leimert Park juxtaposed Gates' recommendation of facing a reality "that inner cities are not going to become oasis of economic prosperity and corporate investment, and we should probably think about moving black inner-city workers to the jobs rather than wait for new factories to resettle in the inner city. " xii

Taking a different approach, Moss and his partners are attempting to help make Leimert Park an "oasis of economic prosperity." In addition to the various obstacles presented to African-Americans from institutional racism in the job market to resource deprived public schools, Moss offers his own reason, a more personal one, as to why collective power among African-Americans has yet to occur.

I don't know if it's becasue Blacks here came from slavery or
we got separated frm family and all that-any kind of sense of
heritage and cultre that Black folks haven't been able to come
together and work for the good of all as opposed to individually-
you know individual successes. That other cultures can come
here and they stick together and they're not as many people as
we are-they may not be as educated as we are as a whole, but
they have one thing-they stick together! And they strive together
for the whole. And we don't have that sense-you know we haven't
realized that that's our only salvation. Don't expect the white man
do it for you-they are not going to do it for you. You've got to do it
for yourself. xii

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