Welcome to the second half of the Trackstarz interview with Jay Harris founder of Strght & Nrrw. Part 1 is here.
These next few questions have to do with the statement that was posted about Strght & Nrrw closing down.
TZ: When I first heard you were closing, it was around the same time I heard that Family Christian Bookstore was closing. I was instantly sad, but after the reading the statement in full, I couldn’t be happier for you Jay! For those who don’t know, explain what The Ville Church is and your position in it?
JH: So after I closed the store, I went on staff as assistant pastor at a church plant I was apart of. In June of last year, the lead pastor left and I took over as lead pastor. The church was formerly named Image. I changed the name to “The Ville Church.” You can find out more at www.theville.church
TZ: Many people think they are supposed to one thing forever, but you clearly saw that Strght &Nrrw chapter of your life is coming to an end. What were some clear signs that it is time to move on?
JH: Let me start with the store. When I started the store, I always felt like it was just a chapter in what God was doing. I didn’t know what was coming next but I knew not to fall in love with the store but to love it. I cherished everyday I was at the store, so when it was time to move on, I was able to. That feels like a gift from God that He made me aware of that. People thought I was crazy when I closed it but I knew it was the thing to do. It’s always harder when that something makes you the “man” to people and affords you such great influence and power. That’s why we must remain humble or we fall in love with the gifts of God more than God. The decision to end the brand is not as clear as it seems. This is what I do know. Leading the church takes all I got. I am seeing people’s hearts and lives transformed and I want to give it my all. I still love fashion and the brand to the depths of my heart but serving/leading the church is priority. That’s why I decided to close it. I haven’t been able to give the brand the attention it needs for quite a while now, so I decided to close it. Once the announcement went out, several people reached out about buying the brand. I am in the middle of some serious conversations based around selling or partnering. I’m still not sure which way to lean honestly. I am trying to watch for distractions in it all and hear God clearly. Money is good but it’s not everything. God is faithful and He will speak. I’m just staying patient and keeping my eyes on souls right now.
TZ: The statement also mentioned instances where you locked the Boutique to pray for folks and preach to folks. What were some other things you did that exhibited your more pastoral side than your business side?
JH: From the outside looking in, we esteemed ministry over the business. I’m not saying it’s the best way to do things, but that’s where I was at. I opened the store in a location based on the exposure to non believers and not based off sales. It was not a lucrative business move and my wife and I knew that going in. Our whole strategy was about reaching the lost. It was lucrative for reaching the lost. We correctly heard God on that one and I would do it all over again. We held a weekly Bible study in the store, mentored kids, worked with non-profits, fed the homeless. I even had people sleeping in the store some days. It was never a dull moment on the block. We had a front row seat to a lot of people’s pain. God set us up to spread the good news in a way only He could. If you could imagine a Christian organization showing up on secular territory and taking the influence with the youth; that’s what happened. We loved, and fed people so vigorously even people who hated our message of the gospel couldn’t deny the selflessness and love we exhibited. It shook the city. And we out partied everybody. We partied so hard, the cops would have to shut off the street because it was madness. We took the celebration to the streets.
TZ: It seems as if Strght & Nrrw has born some of the best fruit imaginable: some your loyal customers have become Believers and even a part of your church? Describe that process of walking folks from Customer to Christian?
JH: We often heard people say, “I don’t mess with church but I will come through your store and catch a Bible study”. The format was so real and exciting people would always come back. We were transparent and we confessed our sin and our need for the cross. People felt comfortable being themselves. Next thing you know, they would be in church. I think people saw we didn’t want anything from them. We had something to give…Jesus, the love of God. That is peculiar in a day when everybody is about themselves. People gravitated to it. Don’t get me wrong, it was a gut wrenching work that could only be accomplished with power of God. Sounds like fun, but much suffering and attacks were involved. God prevailed through every attack. He is the hero in the story.
TZ: I wanted to interview you because I believe the Body could learn from how not only to start well but end well also. What are some words of encouragement that you would give to Christian entrepreneurs about starting and ending a business?
JH: I get way more credit for being smart then I deserve. I have always been paralyzed by fear. I’ve only been able to make moves because of my faith in Jesus Christ. So I tell people to start with understanding God’s faithfulness. Even a failure in your life can be valuable for your next move. So whether you win or lose, He’s is still sovereign in the matter. With that faith, your trust is rooted in God and not yourself and hence the freedom to be daring is unclouded as well as your self reliance. That’s important because I think true bravery in starting something can come from that as well as the courage to end it. You can have something and it not have you. You can end something or lose it and not lose God. You can win and keep an honest perspective of who truly orders your footsteps. If you know someone who has succeeded in the business of your interest, ask questions and then keep asking. Stay close to God from who all wisdom and knowledge comes.
We’d like to thank Jay Harris for sitting down and talking with us! Check out Strght and Nrrw Clothing @ www.strghtandnrrw.com