Bob Benkert
by Karen Alberg Grossman
Bob Benkert
Bob Benkert (here with his wife Janice) was honored for retail excellence at the MR Awards Ceremony in 2011.

MR magazine sadly reports the loss of our good friend Bob Benkert, who died on Friday. April 22 at age 76 after a two-year struggle with leukemia. Benkert was the longtime owner of The Claymore Shop in Birmingham, Michigan.

He received an award for retail excellence from MR magazine and last year’s Business Person of the Year award from the Birmingham Bloomfield Chamber of Commerce at which Benkert was recognized as “a man of great integrity and a true business leader.”

“I think I lost one of my best friends,” said Fred Derring of DLS. Added Larry Dykhouse of Robert Talbott, “Bob was the most elegant man in our industry, a very fine gentleman. Or as our creative director Mark Calder put it, ‘We lost a friend and a true ambassador of menswear.”

Noted Mick Mraunac, a Chicago-based rep for Hart Schaffner Marx, Schneiders of Salzberg, Wood underwear and other collections, “Bob was outgoing, personable and larger than life. He gave me my first job out of college in the early 1970s. I moved to the wholesale side in l984 and I’ve been selling him ever since. Bob was very loyal to the wholesalers he did business with but never to a fault. If it wasn’t working, he wouldn’t buy it. But he’d always stop by to take a look.”

Al Skiba worked with Benkert at The Claymore Shop for the past 40 years “without a single argument,” he notes. “Bob was committed to staying in Birmingham because we were one of the few ‘carriage trade’ stores left and he loved servicing customers who put their trust in dressing properly. (In several cases, we have fourth generation customers!) Although we are devastated to lose him, Bob taught us well so the business will continue: we just renewed our lease and we’ve got a terrific team ready to move forward.”

Neckwear maker Randy Hanauer, who describes Benkert as “fun and funny and always a pleasure to work with” is providing bowties for participants in a Celebration of Life service, to be held at 1:00 p.m. on May 28th at the Christ Church Cranbrook in Bloomfield Hills. Forget about black: the polka dot bowties will be crafted in Carolina blue,  which was Bob’s favorite color.

Benkert is survived by his wife J.J., son Christopher and daughter Brooke. Instead of flowers, consider donations in Benkert’s memory to Christ Church Cranbrook Rector’s Fund or the Leukemia Lymphoma Society of Michigan.

For more on Bob Benkert, please read our previous story in MR.