Around the Sun City, there’s always talk of a ‘brain drain,’ local talent leaving the city to ply their trade elsewhere. Of late, that talk is waning, with scores of locals deciding to place their bets here, in their hometown.
One business owner, with deep ties to one of the most historic areas in the city, is leading the charge – while letting his clothes and profits – do the talking.
Bobby Lerma is no stranger to the Segundo Barrio (Spanish for the Second Ward) having grown up, gone to school, graduated and helped his family business – Blue Star Custom Uniforms – all within the sometimes elastic boundaries of the city’s southside.
In addition to helping the family business, Lerma was an instrumental part of a championship semi-pro football team, the Sun City Reapers, that boosted both the neighborhood and the school – Bowie – that he holds so dear. It was the end of the franchise, and the desire to continue helping the school that led him directly to his new business: Segundo Barrio Apparel.
“Once the Reapers ran their course, and we won the championship and disbanded, I realized that the fundraising we had done with the team for Bowie athletics was gone too,” Lerma shares from a bustling office/production facility nestled between Chico’s Tacos and Jefferson High, three feet removed from Alameda Avenue.
“I still wanted to give back to the school, and the neighborhoods that brought me to where I was at…and I looked around and saw this rich, cultural area that people took pride in – that I took pride in – and I realized that all of Segundo could profit from their own image, their own logo,” Lerma says.
That logo – a seemingly simple, interlocked, script ‘SB’ – evokes feelings of pride of home, as surely as the interlocked ‘NY’ or the offset ‘LA’ of Yankees and Dodgers fame, that now define countless neighborhoods in each city; but the ‘Segundo’ brand is much more than shirts or hats. Lerma says it’s about giving back to that community.
“I’m blessed that I have Blue Star to help get this off the ground and my family to help, because it means every Segundo shirt or hat we produce and sell, our overhead is lower, so more of that profit goes directly into the community, in this case Bowie Athletics and their feeder programs.”
And the percentage, according to Lerma, is 30 to 35% of the brand’s profits; a hefty percentage that he says is only going to grow in the future. With each specific item run as a limited edition shirt, hat or sticker, the built-in demand for the branded apparel is heavy.
“The first run of the brand, we nearly sold out in the first couple of weeks,” Lerma shares as he shows the only remaining boxes of product, “I’ve gotten calls from out of town, thanks to the web, of people wanting a specific shirt or the camo hat – like this one, but there’s only one left, and the shirts are just flying out of here.”
Those phone calls have also come from other parts of town – Northeast, Lower Valley – with each buyer wondering if their part of town will get a similar ‘Segundo Barrio’ bounce from branded tees and hats.
“If I were to do it…and that’s a big one…eventually I will, but ‘Segundo’ will be the brand, regardless of the part of town on the front of the shirt, it will always have ‘SB’ ” Lerma emphasizes with a smile, “Segundo is the brand, and that others want to be part of that pride, says a lot about the people and this part of town.”
To those who say that the Segundo brand is negative, Lerma says they’re simply wrong.
“This was never meant to represent drugs, or gangs, it’s much larger than that…it’s the people, it’s their spirit that can’t be contained in that one square mile, or a few blocks…a lot of people try to limit it, to box that culture and people in…but the spirit, the orgullo (pride) can’t be controlled, people need to be proud of where they’re from, proud to come from that spirit and be humble enough to give back to that spirit, and help it grow.”
From a humble beginning, seeded by his own money and a basic page on facebook and instagram, ‘Segundo’ is blowing up. As Lerma works with community groups, and sells from the Blue Star location, the new legend of ‘Segundo Barrio’ is growing fast.
Segundo Barrio Apparel Company is open every weekend, Saturday from 11 to 2p and Sunday from 10 to 12. They’re located inside the Blue Star Custom Uniform headquarters at 4302 Alameda.
All photos courtesy Segundo Barrio Facebook/Instagram