Jason Estremera attributes his keen fashion sensibilities to his mother.
"My mom is the quirkiest lady you'll ever meet," says Estremera, who grew up in the Chicago suburbs. We're talking one afternoon at Trunk, his men's clothing store in Detroit-Shoreway. "We were the kids in the minivan being dropped off at school, and my mom was listening to Prince and Violent Femmes and the Cure. I was inspired by the sense of rebellion in not only the music but their clothing. I would emulate that. In the '90s, shock rock and grunge was popular and so different. For someone who felt different on the inside, I thought I could use fashion and style to reflect that on the outside. My mother wore bolo ties and she kind of went through this Annie Lennox phase where she wore men's clothes. I felt comfortable being 'weird' at that time."
In 2010, he moved to Cleveland with JP Morgan Chase as an assistant branch manager in the Gordon Square Arts District. He immediately fell in love with the area and put down roots, purchasing a house and contributing to the neighborhood's economy. Just last year, he opened Trunk, a small storefront that sells used and new men's clothing, accessories and lifestyle products.
"I've always wanted to open a men's clothing store," he says adding that he grew up shopping at flea markets and secondhand stores because "you could embrace your own style without buying into an image." It doesn't hurt that he also earned a Bachelor's of Science in textiles, apparel and merchandising while in Chicago.
"I love the idea of dressing up a space. I didn't want to design. I wasn't strong at that, but give me a pile of clothes, and I can create something amazing. I love shopping. I like studying store layouts, branding and merchandising. I'm fascinated by the story that's being told through all of that."
Being a small business owner certainly helps give him credibility with his Northeast Ohio Hispanic Business Center and Chamber of Commerce clients. The organization's outreach and impact within the local community has increased, and Estremera hopes that the forthcoming El Mercado, a collection of Hispanic shops, will help define La Villa Hispana, an area along West 25th St., as Cleveland's Latino epicenter.
"It's been one hell of a journey going from corporate America to a nonprofit. You have to work 50 times harder to prove yourself, but the payoff is so tremendous," he says of working at the organization. "The Hispanic Business Center is a community of entrepreneurs who are getting started or growing. We meet at this intersection of idea and passion. There's also a spiritual element in that you're pushing yourself and there are these magical connections that lead to opportunities."
His ultimate goal? To promote and embrace Cleveland's rich cultural diversity.
"I'm fascinated with Cleveland because we live in a city where people are hungry for cultural exchange," he says. "I want people to see how beautiful the diversity is here. Our Hispanic-owned businesses are creating jobs and tax revenues and persevering through the hard work that goes into being a minority in America. The work that the center has put into La Villa Hispana has provided a stage for these businesses to show Cleveland what they got. It's about preserving the heritage of an immigrant community through creating meaningful, tangible change. It's about showing our future leaders that they can make it past expectations."