Salter encourages entrepreneurship


Photo by David Olaniran

Alumnus Kim Salter is the owner of Evening Out Formal Wear, the only formal wear outlet in Montgomery that is black owned. He graduated from Alabama State University in 1988.

Camille Zanders, Alumni Connection Editor

For the past 31 years, Evening Out Formal Wear has specialized in men’s tuxedos and after 5 wear.

Several factors could interfere with a smooth transition into a career, such as a struggling economy, lack of job openings, location, and more. Many struggle with aligning their dreams with their reality. While some sulk over the hand that they are dealt, others change the game to cater to the cards.
Alabama State University alumnus Kim Salter changed the game by creating a job for himself when no one else would.
In 1990, Salter began his entrepreneurial journey by opening his business ‘Evening Out Formal Wear.’ Though it began out of his own home, Evening Out Formal Wear now stands near the Hornet’s Nest on Carter Hill Road and has been serving the people of Montgomery, Ala., for the past 31 years.
While also acknowledging his hard work, Salter also credits ASU with not only his professional growth but also his personal maturation.
“I love ASU,” Salter said. “ASU is the reason I am who I am today.”
Salter was born and reared in the great city of Montgomery, Ala. The younger of two boys, Salter was raised by his mother, Nettie Salter, who worked as a seamstress.
As a child, he attended Robert E. Lee High School, where he participated in the band and fell in love with basketball. Basketball was also a major factor in Salter’s interest in attending ASU, as he admired the Hornet basketball program’s culture.
“I was raised right by the campus, and I was a big basketball guy, so I came over to the games in high school and fell in love with the atmosphere,” he shares. Though he never joined the team, Salter remained an avid fan of all ASU sports while as a student.
Salter joined the Hornet Nation in 1983 as a student of the College of Business Administration, pursuing a degree in computer information science. During a time where commercial computers were just hitting the market, Salter hoped to be a part of the few elites who knew how to work them efficiently.
“That was supposed to be where the jobs were going to be when I graduated in the late 1980s,” he explains. “They said computer jobs were going to be big. Math was really my strength, but anything dealing with analytics I was pretty good at.”
Considering Salter originates from Montgomery, he chose to live off-campus but still tried to remain active in many ways that he could. While a student, he participated in the Student Government Association as an off-campus Senator.
“I worked to represent all people who did not live on campus so that their voices could be heard about things going on at the school too,” he said.
Along with SGA, he also joined Phi Beta Lambda Fraternity, Inc., a business fraternity that allowed him to network with other students of the College of Business. His exceptional work in his academics and extracurriculars allowed him to be recognized on the Dean’s List throughout his years as a student.
Honoring his love for basketball, Salter recognizes his favorite moments as a Hornet was supporting the various sports.
“I loved all sporting events, especially basketball!”
Considering he resided off-campus and often missed opportunities for fellowship among students, he found that the sporting events allowed him to interact with and enjoy his classmates. It was that same energetic yet comfortable environment that those events held that convinced Salter to join the Hornet family as a teenager.
Along with the sporting events and opportunities to be social, Salter also fondly remembers his time learning under Henry Cobb, who taught a communications course.
“He was really strict, but we learned a lot from him,” he said.

Salter has recently added men’s suits to his product line.

Cobb’s sternness worked to prepare Salter for the world beyond college, a world that would require ingenuity, a strong work ethic, and perseverance. Cobb’s expectations would force Salter to rise to any occasion and would ultimately give him the confidence and gall to launch his own business.
In 1988, he completed his studies with a bachelor’s degree in computer information systems. Though he was told that the computer science job market would be promising, Salter struggled to find any career opportunities.
Desperate for any form of work, he was granted a position with Hobson Cox, the Pearle Vision owner previously located in the Eastdale Mall, where he handled the optometrist office’s commercial proceedings.
“He really took me under his wing and taught me the business side of it all,” Salter said. In the position, he learned the administrative role of running a business, such as managing finances, marketing, management, and more. Appreciating the opportunity to earn a paycheck, Salter remained at Pearle Vision for the next two years.
While still employed at Pearle Vision, Salter traveled briefly to Dallas, Texas for his brother, Ronald Salter’s wedding. In preparation for the wedding, the men had to get fitted for the tuxedos that they were to wear, this routine fitting would mark the start of Salter’s career in formal wear.
During their visit, the tailor taught the Salter brothers how they could join the formal wear business; he shared different vendors that supplied the tuxedos and also the best ways to operate such a business. Though unexpected, this lesson came right on time as Salter had already developed dreams of owning his own establishment.
“It was more of an opportunity that was presented,” Salter said. “I kind of always had my own aspirations of starting my own business, so when I could not find a job, I figured I would make my own.”
The Salter brothers began their lives as formal wear salesmen at the same time in 1990, with Ronald working out of Dallas, Tex. and Kim out of Montgomery, Ala. Though he initially ran the business out of his own home and traveled to the clients for fittings and to the event for deliveries, Salter quickly gained Montgomery’s success.
“We were really successful because I was of the age where people were getting married,” Salter said. “I knew a lot of people from being at ASU, playing basketball, and just being from Montgomery.” His mother, Nettie Salter, also brought in a great deal of business as she had experienced as a seamstress, giving his new business, “Evening Out Formal Wear” an edge early on.
Though his brother’s franchise began to stall, Salter’s immense success allowed him to relocate into a property at Normandale Shopping Center in 1991. Now with an establishment that the people of Montgomery can visit, Evening Out became the go-to-shop when in need of a fashionable yet fiscally responsible tuxedo or suit.
“When I first started, we were doing a lot of cotillions, fraternity balls, proms, and all of those things,” he said. Those events would often bring in the business of over 100 suits at a time. Though it was often hard work, the public was in awe of the speed, efficiency, and hospitality that Evening Out provided.
“With that, we just slowly got our names out there even more,” Salter said.
In 2013, Evening Out Formal Wear relocated to Carter Hill Road, right across the street from the Hornet’s Nest. Now holding an esteemed reputation with a five-star rating, Salter shares that much of his business comes from ASU and referrals made by ASU.
“I have been doing ASU’s coronation for the past 25 years,” he explains. “I have done Tuskegee University’s coronations, we do Jack and Jill between here and Tuskegee, we do a lot of high school proms, and homecoming events.”
To go along with his success among the ASU community, Salter has also partnered with Diamond One Events to put on bridal, and wedding shows as a way to showcase the newest formal wear collections to the public. Though it did not look promising initially, their first wedding show in 2020 was a hit and brought in a load of business for both Evening Out and Diamond One.
“For presales, we only had about 60 tickets sold, but at the door, we had over 300 people show up!” he said.
Salter finds that these showcases to be a posh and entertaining way to gain the public’s eye, and as his business grows, he hopes to organize them across the state.
“Really, I want to take this show and put it on the road, but that will be farther down the line,” he said.
Though he has found creative ways to attract customers, Salter most prides himself on retaining loyal customers throughout his 30 years in business.
“Developing relationships with customers has been key to us staying in business so long,” he explains. “I probably see over 500 new faces a year, just from people coming in the store. So from being in business for 30-something years, I know everybody.”

Being an advocate for entrepreneurship, Salter advises all students with dreams of opening a business to prepare for the required time and energy commitment. He assures that many pros come with having your own business.

Along with selecting suits, Evening Out customers come to experience the hospitality, warmth, and laughter that Salter can only grant.
“You know, I consider myself a comic in training!” he said.
Considering many customers are young men getting ready for formal ceremonies, parties, or their own wedding, they might be a bit anxious upon entering. To remedy this, Salter believes that all it takes is a couple of jokes to get a new client relaxed and ready to choose the best fit for them.
To ensure that he has styles that appeal to all, he attends bridal shows and conventions across America to see the hottest trends. These quarterly events prove to be one of Salter’s favorite aspects of his career.
“The biggest show that I go to is in Las Vegas, Nev. In 2019, there had to be 10,000 vendors out there,” he remembers. “I enjoy going out and seeing what they have, what is coming out, and those sorts of things.”
Along with seeing the newest styles, these conventions allow Salter to converse with other formal wear business owners. From these interactions, they can share business advice, what styles did and did not work at their shops, and form lasting professional relationships.
Fortunately, throughout Evening Out’s years in business, there have been minimal obstacles or challenges faced.
As of today, the most significant disturbance has been the public’s affinity towards social media and the internet for shopping, but Salter reassures that Evening Out prevails through it.
“Now with the internet, and people buying online, that makes it a little bit difficult because they can find things anywhere in the country rather than buying local,” he says. “But I think our product and prices keep us in the game. We are the only five-star rated formal wear company in the area, and that comes from great customer service and satisfied people.”
Besides the competition presented by the internet, Salter explains that the challenges are minimal and inevitable obstacles faced when running a business. He describes them as day-to-day problems that any management would face, but “you have got to be able to put out the little fires.”
Through all of his years in business, Salter shares that the most rewarding part of his work has been his success in creating opportunities for himself. He appreciates

Evening Out Formal Wear is located at 1326 Carter Hill Road – right around the corner from Alabama State University.

the freedom and flexibility that running his own business provides.
“You can dictate what happens. You can make decisions that determine whether you grow or not. It is not based on someone else’s opinion of you or whether they think you are worthy of a promotion, but based on your hard work,” he said. “So being able to see where I have come from to where I am now has been the most rewarding part to me.”
Though he does not have direct use of his degree, Salter believes that his experience studying in the college of business and working at Pearle Vision prepared him for his career as a business owner. He explains that he takes the role of marketing agent, financial advisor, handyman, and more at Evening Out. Without his experience as a Hornet, he would not have had the slightest idea of handling the many aspects of running a business.
Along with the academics of the College of Business, Salter also credits ASU for preparing him for the world beyond Hornet life.
“College helped me to see that there was much more out there that the world has to offer,” he said.
He explains that while a student, the ASU community used to structure and standards to mold him into a productive member of society.
“Being involved with those organizations and staying on top of my work just made me feel good about my role in the university, and in the world,” he said.
Still appreciative of the school that nurtured him, Salter is happy to be of service to the ASU community in any way he can.
Besides his professional life, Salter spends much of his time with his wife, Jamelyn Salter.
“We have known each other forever, and we grew up in the same neighborhood. It just so happened that we waited for this late to get together,” he said. “I was able to use my own services for my own wedding!” Salter also enjoys spending time with both his son Courtney, a 2020 alumnus who works on Gunter Air Force Base and a vital part of the family business as well as his daughter Jadelyn who resides in Birmingham.
Being an advocate for entrepreneurship, Salter advises all students with dreams of opening a business to prepare for the required time and energy commitment. He assures that many pros come with having your own business.
Salter urges all ASU students to make the most out of every moment.
“With anything you do, put your best foot forward,” he said. Speaking from his own experience, he expresses that college is the time meant to prepare you for life after youth.
And finally to all the people of Montgomery, Salter advises that when in need of a tuxedo, nice pair of socks, or even a good laugh to come down to Evening Out Formal Wear, where they live by the words, “For your next formal affair, we have the best formal wear!”