MR magazine is saddened to report the passing of iconic retailer Pat Mon Pere Sr., founder of Patrick James, one of few privately-owned multi-unit menswear stores in America, on Monday, February 11. He is survived by his three adored sons, Pat, Michael and Clay, his nephew Paul, and numerous loving family members, friends, associates,
Born in Fresno in 1931, Mon Pere started in the business in 1961 when he opened his first store in his hometown with help from a former employer. It was a small shop selling private label Ivy League soft shoulder clothing that filled a void in the California market. Ten years later, as a side project, he founded a bank. From a single store, the company gradually expanded to 15 stores (featuring both private label and national brands), profitable catalog and online businesses (headed up by Rob Carson, formerly from Bullock & Jones), and a separate division that Mon Pere created to help fellow retailers with cash-raising sales. (These cash-raising sales were so successful, they could generate some stores’ annual sales volume in just two months!) A few years ago, at an exclusive industry dinner in NYC, Mon Pere graciously accepted MR magazine’s coveted award for retail excellence.
Smart, business-savvy, amiable and kind, Mon Pere never planned to be a retailer: he studied English literature and creative writing in college, eschewing the business courses because he found them dull. As a young man, he was a boxer. He loved reading history books and once he began his retail journey, he loved working on the selling floor and meeting different kinds of people. He was most proud of the personal achievement and longevity of his employees, and the fact that all three of his sons and his nephew were carrying the business forward.
Some thoughts from the industry reflect Pat Mon Pere Sr, the merchant and the man. From Michael Holdstein at Peerless Clothing: “Pat was a kind gentleman with a lifelong passion for the menswear industry. He always welcomed you in his offices in Fresno and you could be there for hours just “talkin’ shop”. Having Pat Jr. there to carry on his legacy is gratifying for all of us who have known the Mon Pere family over the years.”
Says Ken Haruta from the LA Mart, “When most other retailers were getting keystone markups, Pat had the vision to go for 60 percent and higher.” Says John Haller, who worked with him at Robert Talbott and later for him at Patrick James, “His success was simple: he treated people like family.”
Menswear designer Scott Barber knew him for more than 30 years and truly felt like family. “There was something special between us that I can’t quite explain but I always felt that he liked me and was glad to see me. He was always so encouraging and even proud of my accomplishments. I am very sad about his passing: I’ll sure miss him!” Sums up longtime colleague Rob Carson, “What separated him was his passion for the business and his compassion for his employees. He was a great merchant, a terrific businessman, and a wonderful human being.”
Steve Pruitt from Blacks Consulting also knew him well. “I knew Pat for over 20 years as a client, a mentor,
“Pat built a wonderful business and prided himself on not taking the early promotional markdown route that most chains took,” Pruitt continued. “And he taught his family the same values, even in the face of market spirals. His business stands as a testament to sound retailing, buying at a fair price and delivering high levels of value and service. His customers rewarded him by continuing to pay full price, understanding that they were getting fair value. As with his tagline, Pat was a West Coast Classic in every sense.”
A funeral mass will be celebrated on Friday, February 22, 2019 at 10:00 am at the Shrine of St. Therese in Fresno with interment following at St. Peter’s Cemetery. For those so inclined, donations can be made to Fresno’s The Nazareth House or Catholic Charities.