We are talking today with Jeff and Mary McNeill, owners of Carolina WorkWear. They bring a unique perspective to their business-Jeff has a corporate safety background and Mary is a nurse.
GA! What prompted you to open Carolina WorkWear?
Jeff: In 2008, my job as a Corporate Safety Manager was eliminated, and I started my own safety consulting business-which I still have (Piedmont Safety). That consulting business lead to sales of safety products, and we realized there were gaps in what was available retail wise for sale, plus there was no dedicated medical uniform (Scrub) store locally. We opened Carolina WorkWear at 201 E. Franklin Blvd. in October 2012.
GA! Are you guys from this area? What about kids, college, etc.?
Jeff: I am orginally from Denver NC, but have spent my entire adult life in Gaston County. Mary is from West Virginia originally and has lived in Gaston since 1999. We have lived in Belmont, Mt. Holly and currently reside in South Gastonia. I attended CPCC and majored in Environmental Health and Safety, Mary went through the Gaston College nursing program (Class of 2004). No kids as of yet- just a chocolate cocker spaniel named Bodie.
GA! What about selection and prices?
Mary: We carry about 10 different lines of scrubs, and various styles in each line. We like to say “we’ve got you covered!”. Comfort, selection and value are important to us.
GA! Speaking of value, how do your prices compare to what I can find online?
Mary: Actually, we check online prices, and then price our scrubs just below the national average, so we invite folks to compare. We have customers check prices on their smartphones while they are shopping with us, and they are pleasantly surprised.
GA! Seems like it would be an advantage to be able to try on scrubs before you buy…
Mary: Customers can come touch, feel the material, features, and try on-check the comfort and fit. One brand may not fit everyone; everyone doesn’t have the same body type-or backside! Different product lines fit differently.
GA! You carry high-viz apparel, which is the really bright or reflective clothing…
Jeff: We do carry high-visibility apparel. High viz is required in certain construction environments-“struck-by” is a leading cause of death in industrial and construction settings. High viz is also worn by hunters and runners to keep them safe. We carry insulated jackets, wicking t-shirts, hoodies, sweat shirts, jackets, and vests.
GA! What about chef wear, and other work wear?
Jeff: Our chef wear sales are growing; we have chef hats and caps, as well as coats. We also offer in-house embroidery. We offer Shoes for Crews, which are highly slip resistant. Beyond that we carry lab coats for docs and pharmacists, vets, all in stock, male or female, short and long sleeve. After multiple requests from customers, we now carry 5.11 Tactical apparel and gear for the public service sector- EMS Fire & Police, including pants, boots, belts, and gloves.
GA! You mention that you often stay open after-hours for an entire medical staff-say a dentists office- to come in and let them shop and try on with the store to themselves..
Jeff: We make sort of a party out if it, it’s fun for the staff and it’s fun for us. There may be some wine and cheese involved…
GA! What do you guys do or fun when you are not selling WorkWear or doing safety work?
Jeff: Well, I am interested in muscle cars. I have a stock ’65 Chevelle Malibu SS, 327 cui, Powerglide with matching numbers. Mary enjoys working out and spending time with family. As a couple we love to go to Asheville and DC-we love the artsy vibe and the history. Camping is also something we enjoy doing together.