John Giovanni Marquez, the talented merchant who ran a successful menswear store (FSB: Fashion Shoppes Boutique) and Fashionmenswear.com in Palm Beach for 50 years, has always believed in his employees.
“Covid precipitated my final decision to switch from retailing to consulting but I was concerned about my employees, many of whom had worked for FSB for 25-40 years…” So in an unusual arrangement, Gio is now passing the business on to Prade Charles, one of his most talented sellers. “Prade is an immigrant from Haiti and a U.S. citizen. I hired him 25 years ago for his sense of style and his passion for selling. I’ve always believed in him, so instead of retiring 100%, I’m staying on for a while as the buyer/consultant, taking Prade along on buying trips to teach him the ropes.” Also on the team is Gio’s sister Gloria Ciongoli, the FSBMens controller for 50 years. “This leaves the other associates with the most important tasks of all: selling, tailoring, visual display and customer satisfaction.
Prade opened its doors peak pandemic in a location just 10 minutes from FSB and a half mile from the Lake Worth beach in Palm Beach Florida. The new store is smaller (2400 square feet vs. 7000) but buzzing, with a strong blend of tailored clothing and sportswear. “With supply chain issues in China, our mix is mostly European, much of it top-quality private label goods from Italy and Turkey with a very Italian sensibility,” says Gio, whose business model involves making affordably-priced clothing look expensive with the right accessories and furnishings.
With record inflation, new strains of Covid, war in Ukraine, political discord, severe weather patterns and the growth of online shopping, what are the survival odds for a new brick & mortar store? Gio is an eternal optimist: “The Haitian community is big on celebrations: they love dressing up for weddings, graduations, funerals, family holidays. There’s no doubt in my mind that the store will be successful. When the Palm Beachers come over from the island and discover Prade Menswear, they’re overwhelmed by the taste level, customer service and price points.”
Asked what he’s learned from Gio, Prade stresses customer service. “The moment you arrive in the store, you’re treated like family,” he explains. “I’m very thankful that all the vendors accepted me as a client and friend. I hope to continue learning from the great minds in the menswear business.” Admitting that controlling expenses is challenging due to global inflation, Prade now implements many of Gio’s lessons: always paying invoices on time, continuing to work with existing vendors while scouting out new ones. “I also realize the importance of touching our customers’ hearts with strong displays. We’re blessed to have Vivian Fallon heading up our visual department: she started in the industry right out of high school as a 17-year-old art student. Her displays are works of art that could be on Madison or Fifth Avenue. We’re also lucky to have Natacha Sintil Jean heading up the best tailor shop in South Florida. I’m so grateful to have the team that worked together for so many years, smoothing the transition to becoming an entrepreneur.”