Johnell garmany on 45 years of fashion

by Karen Alberg Grossman

“We’re super blessed by the quality of our clients,” Johnell Garmany proclaims at the start of our interview. “They come in, they shop, they spend. Yes, it’s tough out there with the growth of online businesses, but we’re lucky to have so many loyal customers.”

This award-winning store was founded by Larry Garmany 45 years ago, first in NYC and then, for the past 30 years, in Red Bank N.J. Among the store’s success secrets, Johnell mentions their strong focus on in-store events. “We do one or two a month during peak seasons, sometimes more. We always tie them to a charity—that’s what draws people in. They appreciate what we do for the community and they want to support our efforts. A great event is always Ladies’ Night Out—giving young mothers a chance to get out, shop, socialize, have a glass of champagne. Another fabulous event that we’ve been doing for four years now is our end-November Shave-Off fundraiser (for MSK cancer center, in memory of my dad who was treated there). Larry ran the store like the New York Yankees: you had to dress properly, you had to shave. This event lets me communicate to our team that my style is more laid back than my dad’s; (it’s also a bit of me busting Larry’s chops while he watches from above…) Our whole team participates, as do many of our clients. Then at the end of the month, a barber shows up and professionally shaves all the guys and we party. He stays all day on a Saturday; it’s really fun!”

Initially a menswear store when Larry Garmany started out 45 years ago, Garmany got into the women’s business 15 years ago, the same time the store moved to its current location. Johnell explains the challenges of this transition. “Women’s fashion has grown to 30 percent of store volume, and it’s flourishing. At first, we were designer-heavy but gradually our niche shifted. While women will spend on high-end shoes and handbags, they won’t necessarily spend $2,000 on a blouse. So we took a cue from what Intermix was doing in larger cities and found our sweet spot in an advanced contemporary price point. Where do we go from here? With the success we’ve had with Brunello Cucinelli and Loro Piana on the men’s side, we’d like to explore adding more luxury on the women’s side.”

In menswear, tailored clothing comprises about 30 percent of the mix; key brands include Canali, Brunello Cucinelli, Ravazzolo, Kiton, Isaia, Loro Piana. Driving clothing sales these days: casual sportcoats with softer shoulders and patch pockets, often in bold patterns. In luxury sportswear, men are going for a total look, e.g. a $2,000 cashmere sweater with a fine gauge t-shirt, cool sneakers, and jeans. “It’s a comfort thing,” says Johnell. “Customers feel there’s more value in luxury sportswear than in a suit or sportcoat.”

Asked for the store’s longevity secret, Johnell says Jack Mitchell nailed it with his Hug Your Customer books. “It’s very simple: we let customers know we appreciate them. But this is no longer an easy business. When I first started, it was so glamorous: people dressed up; guys would come in and buy a dozen suits, with a half dozen shirts and ties per suit. Now, I take the ferry into the city and I can’t believe how poorly guys are dressed, even the most affluent ones. I’m often tempted to hold a fashion seminar right there on the ferry…”

Asked what he learned from his dad, Johnell doesn’t hesitate. “He taught me the value of honesty, of keeping one’s word. I can’t say enough about this incredible man—not just his integrity but his upbeat attitude and strong desire to make people happy. When he got diagnosed with cancer, other people with cancer would come into the store just to hear Larry’s pep talks. And after he died, people would come in and cry with me; I’d have to comfort them as they shared how greatly they were impacted by my father’s kindness. I feel incredibly blessed to have spent so much of my early adult life with this wonderful man.”

6 Replies to “JOHNELL GARMANY ON 45 YEARS OF FASHION”

  1. What a very nice tribute to your dad.Am sure he was smiling when he saw the article.

    Continued success and have a wonderful holiday season..

    Best regards,

    Briggs Doherty

  2. very well said, my Dad too was a legend in the Men’s business. We can remember them by being just as successful and keeping their lessons polished and handed down to our own chidren.

  3. Larry was a fantastic merchant and Johnell is right on top keeping it going.
    The store is unbelievable to shop in

    Keep up the great work.

  4. I am so very proud of you my Son, your dad, God rest his soul must be smilingly looking down upon you , saying the same as I do, THAT’S OUR SON, We knew you could make it!!!!
    Keep up the good work, always give your best to people, be strong, but be KIND. Always remember where your dad and I came from… it’s important!!!!
    That makes you humble and gives you the courage to do keep on going and make GARMANY even better than when was in charge!!!! Sending you my heart, my love, my blessings!!!!!! Mom

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