Morales’s store is filled with military gear, used boots, and field jackets turned in by local veterans.
“A lot of people going in [to the service] will come here to get a uniform, because it’s cheaper,” he said.
Morales — who named his store for daughters Lucy and Isabel — also aims to capture the civilian market for military clothing. Cargo pants, T-shirts, sweat shirts printed with the names of the five services branches, baseball caps, and belts are popular.
“Even if people aren’t military, camouflage is popular,” he said.
Stickers in the store read, “Half My Heart is in Afghanistan.” There are classic G.I. Joe dolls, and even teddy bears dressed in military outfits in stock.
“It’s a good business,” said Morales. “You’re not going to make a million dollars, but it pays the bills.”
Morales was working as an EMT when he joined the Marine Reserves in 1997. In 2003, his unit was deployed to Iraq, where he worked as a welder during an eight-month tour. He fixed Hummers, often riding in convoys to deliver supplies to combat troops.
After leaving the Marines in 2010, he had thought about retraining to become an auto mechanic, but decided instead to follow his entrepreneurial spirit.
“In the back of my mind, I had always wanted to own my own business,” Morales said.
Pride for the military, and a boyhood love for an Army-Navy shop in Malden, led Morales to open his Lowell store.
“I would ride my bike over to the store, look and see what’s new,” he said. “It used to be that every city had an Army-Navy store. Now, there aren’t many around.”
The wooden sign on his storefront on Market Street states the store is a veteran-owned business.
“I am proud of what I did in the Marines,” said Morales, a son of Guatemalan immigrants. “I am proud of what I’ve done here. I started this business. This is not something I inherited.”