By Cody Worsham
Donnie Alfred is perpetual motion.
Whether riding his skateboard across the intersection of State and Highland, or showing customers around inside Private Stock – his premium sneaker and streetwear boutique, just opened next to PJ’s at LSU’s Northgate neighborhood – the former LSU track star is never still.
Like the elite collegiate runner he was from 1995 to 2000 – Alfred ran the 200, the 400, and the 4×400 relay – he’s always moving forward.
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This fall, that progress takes Alfred to Private Stock’s new location, walking distance from campus. Alfred and his team packed up shop at Private Stock’s former Government St. shop this summer and moved its premium brands, unparalleled customer service, and chill ambience to a first-class venue.
“It was always a part of my 10-year plan.” Alfred said of securing a campus location. “My roots are at LSU. I wanted to bring my clientele here and capitalize off of my background in track.”
Apparel wasn’t always in Alfred’s plans, however. After graduating in Human Anatomy & Physiology from LSU, Alfred began studying nuclear medicine in graduate school. With his free time and money to invest, he decided to start his own business selling premium brands in Baton Rouge without incurring debt.
“It started as a side project,” he said, “something to motivate myself. I wanted to see how much money I could make without spending too much.”
That’s when Alfred discovered something important: he was really, really good at selling premium brands. As he got started, those brands – like The Hundreds, Crooks & Castles, 10 Deep, and many others – gave him access to 30 percent of their lines, a sort of trial run all merchants must undergo. It wasn’t long before Alfred was selling his entire stock, opening his line to 90 and 100 percent of those brands’ products.
Alfred soon realized his passion for the business, which gave him an opportunity to see the world from a new perspective.
“Being an athlete myself, I’d always had cheerleaders,” Alfred said. “This allowed me to hype up other people and give back.”
His recipe is simple, and yet few people follow it.
“Most owners have workers babysitting their store,” Alfred said. “They don’t nurture it, give it water and let it grow. That’s not me.”
The new shop has all the same brands – plus new ones – with new apparel rotating every six weeks or so.
“Most brands die in two years,” Alfred said. “We only deal in brands that have been around for five to 20 years. We eliminate the trends; these are anchor brands.”
In addition to stocking elite gear on his shelves, Alfred is also using Private Stock – which accepts Tiger Cash, by the way – to create a social space for the city.
Part of that process is infusing two of his loves: art and athletics. So, naturally, he reached out to an athletic artist, local painter Jacob Zumo, a.k.a. JZumo, a former college basketball player and one of Baton Rouge’s rising young artists who made an instant impression on Alfred when they met last year through a mutual friend.
“I always checked his stuff out after that, and I saw he grew as an artist,” Alfred said. “I see and know talent, and I believed in his work. Nobody in art can deal with him and he’s driven by trying to get better, to perfect his craft.”
That resonated with Alfred, who was looking to add flavor to his store by hanging jerseys of LSU greats on the walls. But further contemplation sparked a better idea.
“I’m thinking to myself, Half of the students at LSU don’t know who athletes from 10 years ago were,” he said. “They don’t know even know what they look like. I need to fix that.
“I need to call Zumo.”
It’s a call Zumo remembers well. Zumo, who was unaware of Private Stock’s relocation, was struck by Alfred’s energy – and his ambiguity.
“I had no idea what he wanted,” Zumo recalled, laughing. “He was so hype, but he wouldn’t come out and say it. He just said, ‘Meet me at Pita Pit.’ It was so random. Then he walked me into the store, and my head was about to explode.”
Zumo was taken aback by Private Stock’s energy – purple and gold walls, upscale locker-room décor, hip-hop resonating from the speakers.
“You can just feel the energy,” Zumo said. “It’s like walking into the middle of New York City.”
Zumo was sold, and the two began concepting “Gold Frame Legends,” a biweekly installment of LSU-themed art. Zumo’s already hung portraits of Pistol Pete, Shaq, Wally Pontiff, Walter Davis, and Kevin Faulk, with plans for a new Tiger every two weeks.
The move is meant to make Private Stock into a portal for two parts of the city: its college, and its heart.
“I’m bringing the heart of the city to campus,” Alfred said. “They will follow me, and merge, and now we’re next door to 40,000 kids at LSU.”
It’s a new look and location for a store that’s been around for nearly a decade, but while its walls may be in new places, hung with new faces, Private Stock, like its owner, is still true to its roots – it’s just moving forward.
“Following others only gets you so far,” Alfred said. You have to have your own plan and push up that bar.”