COLORADO SPRINGS — As part of Black History Month, News 5 is highlighting a black-owned business that's helping men in the community dress to impress.
The Men's Xchange provides men in need a wide variety of discounted suits, shirts, jackets, and ties. Everything in the shop is donated and under $50.
Before Robin Schneider was the manager and curator of Art111 Gallery and Art Supply in downtown Colorado Springs, he was a man just getting out of cancer treatment and in need of a helping hand.
"I had just gotten out of treatment and I wasn't doing very well. I had been laid off from Verizon, I had been there for seventeen years. I was working a minimal job at the Fine Arts Center, trying to get my life together," said Schneider.
He finally got his lucky break when Pins and Needles hired him on as a curator, but he didn't have the dress wear required for the job.
"Through some friends who knew what James was trying to do, they came to the gallery and James came over, measured me up, and put me in a suit," said Schneider. "It worked great for opening the gallery."
As soon as customers walk into the Men's Exchange, they'll see Schneider's picture on a board full of men whose lives have been forever changed by the shop.
"Every day, every month, every week, every year we get to touch someone's life in a special way. It's an amazing thing to remove this barrier for employment and advancement for individuals," said James Proby, Founder and Chief Ethos Officer of The Men's Exchange.
For more than a decade, Proby has helped those in the community get jobs and skills to obtain employment. After seeing a growing need for affordable professional attire for men, he decided to start his business.
"With us, everything that you end up buying here you can wear out of the store and directly to a job interview if necessary or whatever the next life event is. We wanted to find a way to remove clothing as a barrier to advancement to your next level of life," said Proby.
To continue helping men in the community, Proby says they've partnered with local nonprofits that can refer one person a month who may need dress wear.
"We partner with nonprofits primarily because we aren't interested in trying to replicate services, we wanted to figure out how we could augment services. So we don't want to replace anything that the nonprofits are doing because our nonprofits are doing some amazing work, but they're not able to do everything. So we are always trying to figure out where we can find collaboration versus competition," said Proby. "
Mateo Littlebird, the Resource Coordinator for Oxford House, says the men they send to The Men's Xchange leave with newfound confidence.
"They leave the store with not only a suit and suit separates in clean packaged bags, but they also leave with the confidence that they can only get from somebody in a professional setting that treats you with respect," said Littlebird. "Having good apparel is essential. Sometimes that's all it takes to change your mindset."
He says those who leave Oxford House, a network of self-run, self-supported recovery houses, understand that they need the tools to achieve the goals for their next stage of life.
The business making a huge impact in men's lives, one suit at a time.
"Once a week when I have to go to the bank up the street, I step in there and give him a hug. Every week, without fail," said Schneider.
Those interested in The Men's Xchange can call them at (719) 418-3372 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.