by Christopher Blomquist
John Malouf

John Malouf, founder and owner of Malouf’s in Lubbock and Southlake, Texas, one of the largest specialty clothing stores in the Southwest, died this morning at age 88.

His family said the cause of death was pulmonary fibrosis.

Sharing the news, his son Scott told MR: “A great retailer is finally off his feet.”

Remembered as a tireless retailer, Malouf refused to retire and spent 75 percent of his time on the selling floor and 25 percent in his office or traveling to markets in New York, Dallas, Las Vegas and Italy. “I still have the same passion for it,” he told MR in 2013 after winning an MR Lifetime Achievement Award for Retail Innovation that year. “Itʼs not my work, itʼs my avocation. The best part is selling creatively: to elevate menʼs understanding of apparel and help them discover things beyond their expectations.”

Malouf opened his store in August 1949 after graduating from Texas Tech and being bitten by the retail bug a few years earlier while working part-time at Durham-Burdine, a men’s shop in Lubbock, after he bought a pair of shoes there. From Day One he acted as planner, buyer and merchandiser at his shop on Avenue K and even designed all the store fixtures himself. “The first brands we stocked were not well known in Lubbock, because of the tight hold the established businesses had over all the big brands. (There was a large community of locally owned better retailers in the area; we didnʼt have the nationals at that time.) But after the first few years, I saw that they werenʼt going to New York to look for lines. I decided that this was the way to acquire more important brands,” he said.

He took a particular interest in Oxxford Clothes, and spent the next 17 years attempting to woo them into Maloufʼs, a feat he said was the proudest achievement of his career. “They were the king of the industry–the Italians did not yet have so much influence–but they already had an account in the area,” he said. “I knew there was a market for luxury in my community of small businessmen, and that I could do a better job with it. I began carrying DeRogatis suits, very expensive but lesser known, to prove to Oxxford I could sell a better suit.

“At the same time I would learn when Mr. Hopkinson, who was president of Oxxford, would be in Dallas to meet with Neimans, and I would fly there to shake his hand so he would know who I was. I would also shake hands with Mr. McDonald, president of the menʼs department at Neimans; eventually Mr. McDonald became president of Oxxford. When I called him his first response was, ʻWeʼre not opening any new accounts,ʼ but then he called back a month later and said, ʻOkay, come to Chicago.ʼ” Malouf added that getting Oxxford “helped catapult us to the top of the chain.”

In 1976 Maloufʼs became the first and only non-metropolitan member of the Apparel Forum, Ltd., one of the leading groups of U.S. specialty retailers.

In 2009, his son Michael joined the business and currently serves as the store’s president. Malouf is also survived by his seven other children–Matthew, Scott (of Drest by Scott Malouf), Sam (of Sam Malouf Authentic Luxury), Jennie Gilchrist, Linda Walters, Leslie Malouf and Beverly Debolski—and ten grandchildren.

Michael Malouf told MR, “My father enjoyed what he did every day, from the moment he got his part time job at a men’s store in Lubbock to the present. We at Malouf’s are feeling a big void right now, because he was larger than life, but we will strive to emulate that same passion and commitment each day.”

“He was a great Dad in respect to providing examples of responsibility to family, community and a wider circle of peers,” said Scott Malouf. “He set the bar high, and when you were able to jump it, he would raise it.”

“I loved watching him on the selling floor: he was never pushy but he somehow managed to get the customer to trade up to a more upscale version of whatever it was they came in for,” recalled MR Editor-in-Chief Karen Alberg Grossman. “I always admired him and he never let his age stop him from doing anything, including riding a mechanical bull at a recent Forum meeting in Lubbock. He was a class act.”

“I knew him for 35 years as a fellow member of the Forum Group,” said Bill Mitchell of Mitchells Family of Stores. “He was an icon who had a point of view on every subject—not just clothes. He had a great run at the age of 88. God bless you, John.”

And finally, a lovely tribute from his son Sam: “My dad spent his life doing what he loved most. He hardly took vacations; to him, a trip to Italy or market was a vacation. He always wanted the best. He taught me, and many other retailers, to raise the bar. Bobby Mitchell, who worked at Maloufs, tells the story well. John was driven every day; he took every detail seriously. He seldom forgot a thing and had an incredible eye. He was a master at fitting. He was a quiet salesman, very much a one-on-one guy, not super social but he had a real way with people. I learned a tremendous amount from him and attribute my success to his teaching. He lived his passion. My last conversation with him was about business.”

 A memorial service will be held on Wednesday, September 9th at 9am at Resthaven Funeral Home, Lubbock, TX.

The store will be closed Wednesday in observance.