It isn’t Prada or Brooks Brothers, but booth No. 501 — The Poor People Store — over at Doc’s Records and Vintage on Carroll Street is the first step in a dream coming true for owner Alfredo Posada. Actually, the booth is the second step. The first was getting clean of the drugs and alcohol that were running and ruining the Fort Worth native’s life for more than a decade.
“Clean and sober mean a lot to me,” he said while showing off his store last week. “There were times I was considering suicide before I got clean. Now I’m happy doing what I do and happy to be alive.”
What Posada does is sell used and vintage clothing. What he does differently from other people who sell used and vintage clothing is redesign the clothes to make them unique. He cuts down collars and adds beads and patches, touches of embroidery, and a host of other things. “I alter clothing by size, I mix and match fabrics, I dye some of the clothes — I’m always experimenting with new ideas,” he said. “Basically, I look at a shirt or a pair of pants or a jacket and I imagine what it could look like if I worked with it. I reimagine it.”
The day I met him, he was wearing a pair of jeans he’d pegged and a shirt he’d fitted, laced with sequins and touched off with embroidered patches at the shoulders. His cousin and sometimes model, Jessica Rubalcaba, was wearing a men’s pullover that had had its sleeves cut down and been refitted as a woman’s midriff blouse.
Rubalcaba, who starts at TCU in the fall with an eye on business and fashion, calls her cousin an inspiration. “As a kid growing up, he just dressed in his own style,” she said. “He looked different than other people, and that style was what got me interested in fashion.”
The style partly came out of Posada’s early years in North Fort Worth, where he grew up with an older brother, a younger sister, and a single mom. “I learned to sew from my mom’s grandma,” he said. “At first, it was just for fun when I was a little kid, but then it was to fix the hand-me-downs we wore, because that’s all we had. And I just started making them look good, making them into my style.”
Posada lived on Hanna Street until he was 7 and says that while his family was really poor, he was too young to realize how poor they were then. He came to realize it a short while later. “My mom worked two jobs and saved what she could, and she finally bought a car and a small house in Diamond Hill,” he said, referring to the small neighborhood in the historic North Side. “We didn’t have any furniture, though. She and my brother and I used to sleep on the only mattress we had — which was on the floor — and we used candles for light because we didn’t have much of a budget for electricity. But we had the house.”
It turned out, he said, that they didn’t really have the house: An aunt had helped with financing for the down payment, and it was her name on the mortgage. “And after about five years, she just took it away from us, so we moved to Dallas for a few years, where Mom worked at the Expo Design Center. But Dallas was too fast-paced for my mom, so we moved back to Fort Worth.”
In Fort Worth, he and his brother started working for their grandfather, who fixed home air-conditioners. “It wasn’t a company or anything, just word of mouth, but my grandfather was known in the community, so there was enough work,” Posada said. “That was when I started to do my own thing, both the designing and drinking.”
The positive was that people complimented his sartorial style and friends began to ask him to modify their clothes as well. The negative was the alcohol. “I was drinking pretty regularly for a while, and by the time I was about 20, I moved onto substance abuse. That lasted over 10 years.”
Posada didn’t want to go into a litany of what drugs he used — the sobriety coach he met through John Peter Smith Hospital didn’t think that would be a good idea — but he acknowledges they were heavy, regular, and cost a lot. “Early on, I lost a friend, a woman, to an overdose,” he said. “And then I lost my friends and my family because of who I was. It was a pretty rotten existence. I had to sell everything I owned, including a couple of old vehicles.”
What about his sewing machine?
“That was the only thing I didn’t sell,” Posada said. “I kept that because I still had hope that I was going to stop drugs and get my life back together.”
It didn’t work out that way, not right away. “I wound up selling drugs as well, and that was not a good choice,” he said. “I didn’t want to, but once you are into doing your stupid shit, that sometimes seems like the best choice, and it’s right there for you.”
His implosion finally left him considering suicide. “I remember one night, three years ago, about a week before my brother’s first child was going to be born. I was alone in my room and thinking about suicide when there was a knock on my door. It was my mother, coming to tell me that I had a nephew. He was born a little early. That somehow made me believe in love, in my family, even in God again. That’s when I decided to start getting clean.”
He thought he could do it on his own and eschewed his family’s entreaties to start with rehab. He admits he failed sometimes: “And then I wound up at Green Bay, the Tarrant County Jail, for six months for a parole violation on a DWI I got five years ago. I won’t be staying at that hotel again.”
The jail experience made him more determined to quit, and with the help of two friends and a single dose of DMT, a potent hallucinogen that can make users look deeply into themselves, he finally did. “I only did that once,” he said. “Two friends of mine who wanted me to get sober suggested I try it, so I did. It opened my mind. It allowed me to reintroduce myself to myself, and that caused me to do a 180. I just went cold turkey, and that’s the last thing I’ve ever done.”
He went to work at a temp agency for a couple of months and began helping his mom out with some neighborhood parties that she would decorate. “My family and I started getting clients, and we started to make good money with the parties, and then one day my mom and I were talking about ideas of how we could work for ourselves instead of other people. She said, ‘Well, you know how to sew, you like clothes, and you like to shop, so why not put that together and make clothes for other people?’ That was a great idea.”
It came to fruition quickly. Within a week, he went to Doc’s for a pop-up shop that his sister-in-law had created and decided to do a pop up of his own. But Doc’s owner Jenkins Boyd suggested he take one of his booths for a store instead. Posada loved the idea, and a week later he made a down payment on Booth 501 and started collecting clothing to sell and furnishings to make the booth attractive. Some of the clothing was his own, some was from second-hand stores, and some was donated by friends. “If you are going to customize clothing, you can start with almost anything,” Posada said. “I just got as much as I could and started working on it.”
The store opened just over four months ago, and once it did, Posada realized he needed a name. His mom told him to stick with his roots, which meant poor. “She said, ‘Remember that you’re making clothes for people who can’t afford to have custom-made clothes. Good clothes on a good budget.’ ”
His brother and sister-in-law suggested The Poor People Store, but Posada thought that people didn’t want to think of themselves as poor and laughed off the name. “My brother said I was getting it wrong. He said, ‘You’re the poor people. It doesn’t mean the people who shop at the store are poor.’ ”
The name stuck. His booth is packed with a couple of racks of clothes, about half of which have been customized. Posada also has clients who ask him to make custom clothes. And it’s going well, he said: “I pay my share of a rental house I share with my mom in South Fort Worth and pay my bills with the profit.”
Boyd is thrilled with Posada as a client in Doc’s: “I’ve got nothing but positive things to say about him. He brings me clients, and my clients shop in his store, so it’s working very well. And when a bigger booth opens up, I know he’s ready to grab it.”
Posada, who is going to be 32 in July, will also pass the one-year mark on no alcohol or drugs that month. He sees his sobriety coach, a therapist, and a psychologist — all from JPS —to help keep him that way.
And what’s next for him?
“First,” he said, “stay clean. But I’m dreaming of working hard enough and being successful enough to bring in other people who can help tailor and design the clothes. That would be fantastic.”
For a guy who spent a long time in a tough spiral of his own making, it sounds like it already is.