Durell Paige is part music maker, part businessman. With an emphasis on the latter.
“My talent is music, but my purpose is opening businesses,” said Paige, a hip hop artist, music writer and owner of AYO “All Yet One” Boutique at the corner of Bond and West Main streets in Westminster. “My businesses are community based.” His next venture will be an arcade called Senzubeann that he plans to open next door to his boutique.
Paige also owns a recording studio called Studio 23 in Old Town Mall in Baltimore. “We were evicted from our studio because we were making too much noise, so I found a place in Old Town Mall where we could make as much noise as we wanted. It is in a historic area but beat down,” Paige said. “There were not a lot of businesses open in the area where my place is. Just four or five and two places to eat.”
“The space I rented for the music studio had an extra area downstairs where I could open a clothing store. In the beginning, I called it “Everybody Eats” because everybody around you should be winning together. I decided to find brands that are local from Baltimore and put them all inside one store.”
“We opened the first store (now called AYO), Aug. 1, 2019. We had 400 people in Old Town Mall, on the East Baltimore side of the harbor. It brought a lot of light to the area with my grand opening,” Paige said.
“It was fun to come to Westminster since it was historic. It has been hard opening when COVID started. My brands are in the store to make sales. I had to close my business down for six months. I lost a lot of brands and a lot of money,” Paige said.
Paige is getting students to market for him. He gives them free clothing and they become walking billboards. They tell people they are brand ambassadors. The quarterback of the McDaniel College football team, Lucas Martin, is one of them. Emily Pozsgai and Jennifer Morgan, Lorelei McElroy are also ambassadors.
According to Paige, the clothing in the store reaches everybody. The brands are things everybody wears. It is walking art. The Baltimore brands include Free Thinkers and Bold Life Wear, Inc. He is getting international brands from Africa, London and Tokyo.
“You will never see these clothes again,” Paige said. “The items are unique and designed by artists.” He is looking for local clothing designers, sneakers, anything.
When rapper Nipsey Hussle passed away, one of the clothing artists was inspired by him. Chardai Shell has a clothing line called I AM High End ReBel. She took four scarves and cut them up. Then she braided hair on the shirt in a style similar to that worn by Hussel. His face on the shirt is fashioned from a scarf.
“I want to offer the space to people that want to have art shows or something as a pop up in the store. Candles or other craft would be good as well,” Paige said.
He also will be opening Senzubeann, an arcade, beside AYO. “I am also going to add nonprofit side to my business. There will be one day at the arcade that is free for students if they are enrolled in school, and they are staying positive. I plan to get a game bus to pick them up and I hope to work with such organizations as Rise Up and the Boys and Girls Club. It would be great for young people. Kids need something to do,” Paige explained.
“I was not fulfilled by making music. I was not business savvy but I created this from nothing. I am good at it, and I am good at customer service,” Paige said.
Paige can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 667-225-7244.
Lyndi McNulty is the owner of Gizmo’s Art in Westminster. Her column, An Eye for Art, appears regularly in Life & Times.