One Gambert shirt factory closes to join another

by Harry Sheff

NEWARK, N.J.—The Gambert Shirt Corporation is closing its doors by July 3. The reason, owner Suzanne Gambert said, is that she was forced to sell the factory’s building in Newark to make way for developers. She will join her cousin Skip Gambert at Skip Gambert & Associates Shirtmakers, which is also in Newark.

Skip Gambert, Suzanne Gambert and VP of sales Luis Ricart
Skip Gambert, Suzanne Gambert and VP of sales Luis Ricart

The Gambert Shirt Corporation had a business that was roughly half custom shirts for specialty store accounts and half ready-to-wear for luxury brands like Rag & Bone and Thom Browne. Gambert is bringing many of her specialty store accounts with her to Skip Gambert & Associates. She has helped some of her employees transition to Walter Quiroga’s Fiduccia Custom Shirts in Carlstadt, N.J.; that factory will be taking some of the ready-to-wear accounts.

“This will enable Skip and me to focus on bringing Skip Gambert & Associates to the next level of custom shirt making,” she said. “One major addition will be high-end fabrics from exclusive European mills that I have worked closely with for over 20 years. This gives us an edge with the current European styles and designs. This is just one of many areas we intend to concentrate on that should elevate us to becoming the premier shirtmaker in the United States.”

Added Skip Gambert, “We’ll be incorporating two pretty strong branches of our family tree, putting two cousins together to give us a good stable operation. We learned the business in similar environments and had some of the same teachers. In the custom trade, we’re dinosaurs—there aren’t many of us left around the world—so it will be nice to get two under the same roof. I tell everyone I’m looking forward to making a two o’clock doctor’s appointment instead of at six in the morning. We’re both doing this to acquire a better quality of life and to continue to do something we enjoy.”

Before this merger, the name Gambert was associated with three separate Newark custom dress shirt businesses, all of which trace their roots back to Joseph J. Gambert, who started his company in 1933. He had eight children, four of them sons who joined the family business at one time or another.

The Gambert history is complicated: Duke Gambert started working with his father Joseph in the family’s factory in about 1956. Mel Gambert, who currently runs Mel Gambert Shirts with his wife Lorraine and their son Mitch, joined in the 1960s. After Joseph Gambert died in the late ’60s, two other sons—Joseph Gambert Jr. and David Gambert, both of whom had decades-long military careers—came on as well. In about 1979, Mel left and started Mel Gambert Shirts, bringing Joseph Jr. with him. In about 1982, Duke and David split, with David leaving the dress shirt business temporarily. Skip Gambert, David’s son, worked with his uncle Mel for part of the 1980s and then started his own business, Skip Gambert & Associates, in 1992, bringing his father David (who died recently) back into the dress shirt business. Meanwhile, Duke continued to run what was the original business, bringing his daughter Suzanne into it in 1986.

When Suzanne Gambert joins her cousin Skip’s business, there will still be two custom dress shirt businesses with the Gambert name left in Newark: Skip Gambert & Associates and Mel Gambert Shirts.