by Karen Alberg Grossman

How is it that there are so many terrific men’s stores in New Jersey? And so many smart merchants! Although each retailer in this sampling has a unique point of view, I found one clear common denominator: all have noticed that younger guys (20s and 30s) are spending more money on clothing!

Apologies to those great Jersey stores that I missed here; I’ll be back!

Stu Shiroff of Lee Newman, Cherry Hill

I met with store president Stu Shiroff (at top) who showed me around his beautiful 5500 square foot fashion emporium that his dad (the much-admired Harry Shiroff) bought in 1967. Stu joined the business in 2013, after spending much of his career in financial planning in California. “I never really loved managing people’s money,” he confides. “Especially after Y2K and 9/11. So I sold my business and moved east to give retailing a try.”

Current store volume at Lee Newman is evenly divided between men’s and women’s. Hot in menswear these days: cool sneakers from Magnanni, Mezlan, and Pliner, lots of sport coats, five-pockets from 34 Heritage, DL 1961 and Brax. Suit business is strong from Canali (a top brand for 20 years) and Jack Victor. But the growth is clearly in custom (Stantt, Renoir, Canali), which has grown from zero a few years ago to 30 percent of tailored business today. Other strong brands: Eton, Johnnie-O, Marcello, Sartoriale, Tommy Bahama…”

Stu admits that he never fully realized how hard it is for independent specialty stores to make money. “This is a very interesting industry with a lot of challenges. You must carry a lot of expensive inventory and pay your people well if you want good tailors and sellers. Plus, there are so many unpredictable variables impacting business, like when men across the country suddenly wore nothing but sweatpants during Covid. Fortunately, there are some nice people in the men’s business to balance the stress… But bottom line: no one has all the right answers.”

A parting prediction from Stu: younger guys are clearly paying more attention to how they dress, a very good omen for the future.

Jack D’Agnostino of Jack N Jules, Robbinsville Township

Jack started in the clothing business in 1982, then moved from Lawrenceville to Hamilton Square to Robbinsville in 2006. The store is 80 percent men’s (that Jack oversees with Anthony and Bobby), and 20 percent stylish ladies’ wear, managed by Jack’s wife and daughter. The store also boasts two full-time tailors.

Unlike many menswear stores, Jack N Jules menswear mix is 80 percent tailored clothing, 20 percent sportswear. “When weddings started up after Covid, business got a jumpstart, and it hasn’t stopped. The bad news: not enough men are back to the office full-time; many are still working from home. But the good news: they gained weight during Covid and they still need new clothes! More good news: there’s a new generation of younger guys who are spending money on clothing, even leaning toward custom. These are young men who take pride in their appearance. It’s our future…”

That said, Jack fondly recalls the days when guys would come into the store and buy four or five suits at a time; now they come in and buy one. “But as the only guy left selling clothing in this community, I’m the only game in town and I’m doing okay. Our off the rack suits range from $650 to $850; our custom (mostly Trinity) is $950-$1800. We also do well with MaxMan and Berlocci out of Italy. Other popular brands include Bugatchi, Marcello, Raffi, and 34 Heritage. Our niche is updated traditional, with an emphasis on the updated. You’ve got to keep showing new.”

Matt Duru of Michael Duru Clothiers, Shrewsbury

After 24 years of working with his brother Michael, Matt Duru is now sole owner of the business, in the process of creating a new elevated image in a relatively new 4,000 square foot store. That said, he’s forever grateful for Michael’s longtime support and advice, including a precept he now lives by: take care of your people; your people are your family.
“Everyone on our floor has been with us a long time. Back when we couldn’t even afford an employee, we took in a guy who’s now been with us 21 years…”

Three other backbones of this business: a strong work ethic, a focus on private label, and a goal to invest in what you want to be. “You need to create a reason for people to come to you. In our case, it’s tailoring that drives traffic to the store. We have six tailors, one I just hired has only basic tailoring skills, but I’m training her to get to the next level. Michael and I both learned tailoring from our dad…”

Matt believes that were it not for weddings and events, everyone in this industry would be out of business. “Our focus on tailoring is so important: when we sell a custom suit, it’s three trips to the store, and three opportunities to sell them other things.” He also believes in renovating and rebranding. “I think every store should do it: it solidifies your image as a modern store. No one wants to shop where their dad shopped…”

Ralph Lauretta and Mark Delcastillo of Sal Lauretta, Midland Park

Minding the store: Ralph, Jorge, and Mark

This fabulous 6,000-square foot store was founded in 1974 by Ralph’s father and grandfather. “They came to the States in the late 1960s from Sicily. They started the business together; we re-started from zero in 2000, going with a more upscale mix including Canali, Ravazollo and Brioni. The current mix is 60 percent clothing, 40 percent sportswear. Our price range on suits is $995 (Byron) to $3995 (Castangia). Although custom is about 25 percent of our clothing sales, recent momentum has been in rack business.”

Sal Lauretta’s customer base is young professionals on up; the core is 45-60 years old but Ralph notes that they’re getting a lot of 20-somethings these days. “We’re finding plenty of newness in the market,” Ralph explains. “Selling well this spring/summer: featherweight shirts from Fedeli, linen shirts from Strenstrom, tech jackets from Fradi, tailored clothing from Canali (in stock at $2195) and Ravazollo.

Other strong brands include Faherty, Greyson, Bugatchi, Robert Graham and Emanuel Berg. We’re in a super neighborhood and our only competition is Neiman’s and Nordstrom, neither of which is doing great these days. We feel very well supported by this community: our annual fundraiser has been a huge success, raising more than $2 million since we started it…”.

Happy half-century, Sal Lauretta!

Johnell Garmany of Garmany, Red Bank

This business was founded in 1974 in Manhattan by Johnell’s father and uncle. The current location opened in 2005 and now occupies 40,000 square feet. In a class of its own, this amazing store can brilliantly compete with any of the illustrious menswear shops around the globe.

The mix is currently 65 % men’s, 35% women’s, and, according to Johnell, luxury rules these days, with virtually no price resistance (well, maybe just a little…), even at the top levels. Cucinelli, Canali, Zegna, Kiton, Isaia, Ravazzolo, Sartorio… and the ‘steppingstone’ brands just under these (Baldessari, Fedeli, Fradi): if it’s beautiful and feels good, it sells. Notable this summer: luxury polo tops and tees, Jacob Cohen five-pocket twills, and anything from Windsor, a new brand for the store.
Recently back from Pitti Uomo, Johnell noted that more men were wearing suits than in previous years, although not much neckwear. And while he’s not a big fan of exaggerated oversized runway looks, he does believe that men’s fashion is loosening up. “Men are getting dressed up again, but they want comfort. We’re selling pants with pleats. But while comfort is critical, it seems the era of sloppy dressing for men is coming to an end.”


  1. What fun you must have had Karen! thank you for sharing the adventure. Beautiful stores. Great stories.

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