Steve and Fran Lowry picked their way through an assortment of dress shirts and socks on a lazy Friday afternoon at The Men’s Shop.
The pair always come to The Men’s Shop when Steve needs a new collared shirt or pair of shoes.
Sometimes, owner Ronnie Bailes will pick out a few options he thinks Steve will enjoy, pass them to Fran and tell her to bring back anything that didn’t hit the mark.
There aren’t many other apparel shops that know their customers so well, she said.
“It’s a treasure, a true treasure,” Fran said.
“It’s always professional and friendly,” Steve said. “Too bad its days are numbered.”
After nearly 70 years of business, The Men’s Shop in York is expected to close its doors for the final time in 2018, possibly as early as January.
Bailes is retiring after 45 years of leading the popular store. His father Furman opened the shop shortly after returning from World War II.
Furman operated out of 900 square feet of an auto store at 33 North Congress Street. When Bailes took ownership after his father’s death in 1966, he moved the shop up the street to 49 North Congress Street and doubled its size.
Bailes arrives at work promptly at 8:30 a.m. every morning and won’t leave until every customer is satisfied.
The shop has deep roots in the community. Bailes still gets third-or-fifth generation customers who parents or grandparents shopped there dating back to the 1950s.
“They really like for me to do the fitting for them,” Bailes said. “I would rather turn down a sale than have someone leave in a badly-fitted, badly-tailored suit.”
But the hours are stressful for Bailes. He hasn’t had a Saturday off in recent memory. He’s had to miss ballgames and recitals to work the sales floor.
900 Furman Bailes opened and operated The Men’s Shop out of 900 square feet partitioned from an auto store in downtown York. His son Ronnie Bailes took ownership after his father’s death and eventually moved the shop up the street to 49 North Congress Street, doubling the size of the store.
Most of all, he’s looking forward to seeing more of his grandchildren. Three boys live in New York, while the other two are in Fort Mill.
With his 69th birthday coming soon, Bailes said he can finally afford to start slowing down a little.
It’s a tough transition for him. Bailes says he still remembers the days when people would dress up in full suits to go to church or fly on airplanes.
These days, people dress much more casually, he said. He estimates there may be fewer than 200 dedicated men’s stores left in the Carolinas. Bailes still likes to keeps in touch with his competitors around the Southeast.
“It’s my identity,” Bailes said. “It’s what I do. What else would I do 50 hours a week, for six days a week?”
It’s my identity. It’s what I do. What else would I do 50 hours a week, for six days a week?
Ronnie Bailes, owner of The Men’s Shop in York
It’s a familiar refrain for brick-and-mortar stores. The Men’s Shop has adapted over the decades to new trends, fads and fashions, but the commitment to smart, stylish suits and jackets has remained the same for years, customers say.
Bailes is woven into the fabric of the store. He served under his father in every role imaginable from salesman to floor-sweeper. And when Furman passed away from a heart attack at 44, Ronnie quickly took the reins.
Prom queens and soon-to-be husbands have flocked to the store over the years. Ronnie said he had to reassure a few nervous brides that the tuxedos already ordered would still be coming despite the decision to close the store.
His prices have been high, Bailes said, because the quality is top-of-the-line.
A high-end suit can cost $700, while a white shirt with French cuffs could run around $70. The shop is hosting a liquidation sale through the end of the year to sell all remaining merchandise.
Some of Bailes’ deals offer around 30 percent off certain items.
“I may apologize for my prices, but I’ll never apologize for my quality and service,” he said.
Other than more family time, Bailes hasn’t thought about what his next step will be. An avid member of York’s First Presbyterian Church, Bailes said
he’s not leaving the town — not by a long shot. York is where his friends live, as well as his customers.
“The customers become your friends,” he said. “I’m proud of that.”
The Men’s Shop liquidation sale
The Men’s Shop is currently holding a liquidation sale that could last through the winter and into early 2018. The shop is located at 49 North Congress Street in York.