At Appalachian State University, Filipe Ho’s Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity brothers would raid his closet when they wanted something cool to wear. It was always full of clothes from offbeat brands, sample sales, and his travels to places like Hong Kong, Germany, and France. “He’s always been the guy to go to,” says Bradley Rhyne, Ho’s fraternity brother and roommate at the time.
Today, Ho and Rhyne co-own OMJ Clothing, a men’s casual and custom clothing store in South End. The pair officially launched in 2013, but they hatched the idea when they still bunked together and dreamed of combining Ho’s fashion sense and Rhyne’s business acumen.
After graduation in 2007, Ho, who grew up in Macon County, moved to Richmond, Virginia, to work as a national account specialist for Newell Brands. Rhyne, originally from Gaston County, returned to the Charlotte area to work in finance for Bank of America. Five years later, with some experience to guide them, they launched Ole Mason Jar, a men’s clothing brand.
Rhyne quit his day job to take on Ole Mason Jar full time; Ho continued to work full time for Groupon, then Google, which still employs him. But both poured themselves into the clothing business. Rhyne says their goal was to design clothes as versatile and timeless as the Mason jars his grandmother still uses to can fruits and veggies. The pair started with button-down and collared shirts made from high-end fabrics and gave them tailored, flattering fits.
“Around that time was the birth of all these Southern-themed brands,” Ho says, referring to companies like Southern Proper, Southern Marsh, and Rhoback. “We saw this energy and care about fitness growing at the same time. Young professionals and people wanted things that fit better because they were working really hard to be healthy.”
After two years of selling their clothing online, Ho and Rhyne opened a brick-and-mortar store in Brevard Court uptown. It was small, Ho says, but it allowed their brand to add custom suiting and build recognition.
In March 2020, the duo changed the brand’s name to OMJ Clothing and moved to Design Center of the Carolinas in South End. They continue to sell off-the-rack clothing and can custom-design any clothes or shoes, formal or casual: T-shirts, sweatshirts, jackets, suits, tuxedos, ties, sneakers, loafers. OMJ uses manufacturers in the U.S. and abroad that allow them to place small orders without outrageous fees. Custom tees start at $35, button-downs at $125, and suits at around $1,000.
From the outside, the South End space looks like a store. Inside, it feels more like a chic walk-in closet in someone’s home. A custom “OMJ” backsplash of hexagon tiles, cascading philodendrons, and six shelves of whiskey adorn the wall. When customers enter, an OMJ staffer greets them with a beverage and invites them to hang out at the bar and chat about what they’re shopping for.
The whiskey has been a hit. This year, Ho and Rhyne will launch The OMJ Whiskey Club, which will host events like private bottle picks and make special-edition whiskies for OMJ. (Each person who joins will be entered in a raffle for an elusive bottle of 15-year Pappy Van Winkle bourbon, which typically retails for anywhere from $3,000 to $5,000—if you can find one.)
“Big-box retail is dying,” Rhyne says. “There has to be a reason to come to a store. So when we designed this space, we knew we wanted to offer whiskey and have it feel not like a store, but residential, so guys can come and hang out.” It’s like shopping a grown-up version of Ho’s college closet—but with customizable options and much better whiskey.
Tess Allen is the associate editor.