FIU Business Now Magazine Spring 2024
It's a Family Affair

It's a Family Affair

By Karen-Janine Cohen

Family enterprises are familiar in South Florida. Yet All Uniform Wear, now in its 40th year, is unusual.

Three of four de Paz sisters, all FIU Business alumni – Evelyn (BBA '98), Elizabeth (BBA '03) and Edleen (BBA '03) – joined their parents' firm and, eventually, brought in their husbands. The couples, plus founders Moises and Nelly de Paz, shepherd a firm with 26 retail locations, a 50,000 square foot distribution center and an embroidery factory.

The saga began when Moises, Nelly – pregnant with Elizabeth – and young Evelyn left Cuba for South Florida. Edleen was born 11 months after Elizabeth. Nelly, hands full with two tiny ones, suggested Evelyn go with her dad "to the office," the original retail clothing store at the flea market in Miami.

"When I was little, I was very rambunctious," said Evelyn, who remembers those days as magical. "In order to be with my dad, we had to work. It became normal." Once grown, Evelyn worked in the computer industry until she realized the importance of using her capabilities in the family business.

During that time, with the company pivoting to the uniform industry, Elizabeth and Moises knocked on the doors of local businesses to showcase their garments. Edleen worked alongside her mom in accounting.

A fledgling charter school asked Moises to supply student uniforms. Other schools followed, and All Uniform Wear stores were soon proliferating. "We opened one after another, after another," Evelyn said. While she mainly deals with operations, marketing and purchases, no one has a formal title, or strictly defined duties. However, each couple owns its own stores, with combined ownership in the distribution business. Uniforms range from those for medical and hospitality workers to those for first responders.

Elizabeth worked side-by-side with her father all along and never left. "He was the best professor I could ever have," she said, adding that her business education began with him. Her portfolio, managed jointly with her husband Allan Baltodano (BBA '03), includes private label, corporate sales, software development and technology.

The sisters' FIU Business education contributed to the company's growth. "For me, FIU was a pivotal moment, where I could see where I wanted to be," Evelyn said.

Edleen took the traditional college route while still working full time. The family's faith-centered focus unites them and overcomes any professional disagreements, she said. Edleen specializes with her mom on the financial and accounting end of the business plus the school sector.

Edleen said her folks were enthusiastic about welcoming their husbands, and to incorporating what their children learned in business school. "When we started proving ourselves, he was very open to it," she said, referring to her dad. "He had to have trust in us in order to grow the business."