As owners of Iron Horse Clothier (523 Metairie Road, Metairie, 504-644-4800), Joe Caldarera and his wife Tiffany aim to meet a fashion need in the New Orleans area.
"It was my husband's idea," Tiffany says. "He noticed the need for a men's clothing store on Metairie Road and decided to embark on what has been and continues to be an incredible experience. It also provides a business opportunity for our daughters to carry on to future generations."
Joe worked on the men's store concept during his spare time — he operates J. Calarera & Co. contractors full time — transforming a nondescript Metairie Road property into a building with a rustic brick facade and a spacious interior reminiscent of an old-fashioned general store.
Its name inspired by the railroad track a half-block away, Iron Horse has signs reading "Dry Goods" and "General Merchandise" on its facade.
"The rustic look of the building was intentional," Joe says. "It represents an earlier time, when things were simpler, a time when things were slower, when quality and customer service were of predominate importance."
Joe infused the 6,000-square-foot space with weathered elements like reclaimed cypress, exposed posts, beams, rafters and concrete floors. He built wooden islands and display tables himself. At the rear of the store, the office area resembles a turn-of-the-century depot, while a portion of the dressing area features wood wainscoting sourced from a thoroughbred horse farm that once was home to Triple Crown winner Secretariat.
The Caldareras picked up vintage items at antiques store statewide, including an advertisement for Brown's Velvet Dairy, framed photographs, antiques, local art and a working light from a railroad crossing. All the handmade tables and art are for sale.
The look of the store is classic American West-meets-vintage. But the scope of its offerings is much more broad. The inventory covers most categories of menswear (casual wear, sportswear, business attire, custom suits, shirts and tuxedos, shoes and accessories) for a wide range of ages.
"We have mothers shopping with their teenage sons, older Old Metairie residents and anywhere in between," says Tiffany, who does the store's buying with Kim Sam-Pang, one of Joe's five daughters.
Apparel lines include Peter Millar, Coppley, Bobby Jones, Agave Denim and Slate & Stone, among others. Customers will find shoes by Trask and J Shoes, WeWOOD watches, leather goods and men's apothecary items such as soap, cologne and fragrances by Jack Black.
"We have some lines that other retailers have, but one of our main goals was to have new lines that set us apart," Tiffany says. "We wanted to offer some things you couldn't get somewhere else."
Iron Horse also offers on-site tailoring.
According to the Caldareras, there is something for everyone at Iron Horse, whether customers' tastes are traditional or more fashion forward. There's also merchandise for women: scarves, wraps, handbags, candles, serving pieces, jewelry, keepsake boxes, diffusers and other goods. Originally intended as a way for male customers to pick up gifts for the women in their lives, the women's selection has become an attraction in its own right.
Since Iron Horse opened in November 2015, business has been brisk.
"The reception has been wonderful," Tiffany says. "The people who live in the area patronize their local businesses. They have been very gracious to us."
The owners say shoppers from other neighborhoods value the ease of having a men's store along a commercial corridor that offers retailers, restaurants, hair salons, medical offices, banks and other businesses. Iron Horse also has a parking lot.
"It's convenient to Old Metairie and to everyone," Tiffany says. "[Shopping for] upscale men's apparel, accessories and gifts no longer means going into town."