Brian Trunzo and Matthew Breen met at Villanova Law School and always talked about going into business together. They had a strong interest in menswear and wrote for their personal men’s style blogs any free chance they had. After three years of practicing corporate law, they decided to turn their hobbies into careers. “There came a point where we made so many contacts in menswear (from editors to designers) that it seemed like a good idea to introduce some of these brands to the lawyers and bankers we knew,” explains Trunzo.
And so they opened Carson Street Clothiers, a 2,000 sq. ft. menswear shop located on Crosby Street in Manhattan’s SoHo district this March. Trunzo describes it as a “smart, casually tailored menswear store.” We sat down with Trunzo to learn more about their vision…and how he made David Sedaris laugh.
How is Carson Street Clothiers different from all the other menswear stores in NYC? How will you compete? It really comes down to product and brand knowledge, lifestyle cultivation and passion. We love to meet new people and ‘nerd out’ about clothes with them. (Our lounge has become the host of many interesting conversations these days…) In many ways, we are looking to provide that neighborhood barber shop vibe–like a Blind Barber, if you will–to menswear.
What vibe has Blind Barber created? Jeff [Laub, the owner of Blind Barber] is a close friend and was one of the first in our group to say “no” to the corporate lifestyle. He’s created an amazing environment whether you go in during the day or at night. [Blind Barber is one part barbershop and one part bar/lounge.] He’s opened a space where guys can talk, share ideas and learn new things, and we wanted to do that in a clothing environment. My grandfather always said that if you hang out at a barbershop long enough, you’ll eventually get a hair cut. So we’re thinking the same is true with apparel.
Tell me about your assortment. We see CSC as a one-stop shop for all things menswear, from made-to-measure to apothecary to literature, we try to provide as many services as we can. The Carson Street house brand is 30 percent of total (and growing for fall). We’re figuring it all out as we develop the line, but currently, it consists of shirting, trousers, blazers, ties and pocket squares. In addition to private label, we stock brands like Ovadia & Sons, Patrik Ervell and Ian Velardi. We offer made-to-measure suiting by appointment and work exclusively with Dormeuil fabrics. Our in-store program is by Roberto Alfonso Felipe and will be manufactured domestically; the suits will be fully canvassed and customizable. In addition to made-to-measure, we’re offering custom alteration options by Southwick. The suits will all be half-canvas and produced from set patterns, altered to customers’ precise measurements and specifications. For fall 2013 we’re adding more exclusive lines like Spanish label MAN 1924, Catalan footwear label Yanko, Ami, Eidos and Monsieur Lacenaire.
How do your backgrounds in corporate law help with owning and operating a retail store? Being able to learn on the fly is huge in corporate law, and it really helps in retail. Then there’s the discipline one gains from having worked 100-hour weeks in corporate law–if you can sit through a corporate closing, it’s our belief that you can grab the hardhat and lunch pail for just about any gig no matter how grueling it may be.
What surprised you most about opening a store? The administrative and operational pitfalls of retail are incredibly nuanced and surprising. From logistically determining how much store collateral (from tags to hangers) you’ll need to figuring out how to land foreign goods in a cost effective and timely manner, it can be a nightmare.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to open a store? Do your due diligence. Talk to consultants and educate yourself on potential pitfalls. You have to put your pride away no matter what. It’s almost like preparing for a hurricane: you never know what is really going to happen.
What’s your ten-year goal? Beach living–retired and soaking the sun in some obscure place like Anguilla. Ah, we jest! We’re a young company, but we’re always looking to grow. We’d love to eventually take our concept to multiple cities throughout the U.S. and abroad. We’re also working on our e-shop component, and that should be up and running sometime in May.
Describe your (and Matt’s) personal style. We’re sort of like a Venn diagram. The crossover is smart and casual, but then my side is more progressive. I’ll experiment with things depending on my mood and my style can be a bit more obscure. Matt is more traditional/preppy. He loves Americana and takes cues from Italian tailoring. Our only rule at Carson Street is “no sweatpants.” I made that rule, but sometimes I wish I could take it back. There are days when I’m working in the basement, answering e-mail and just want to be in sweats, but I can’t do it. Especially because those are the days when a rush of people will come in and before you know it, you’re up on the sales floor selling.
Have you had any memorable moments from the sales floor yet? We’ve actually had a few celebrities and athletes come into the store, but the best was when David Sedaris came in. I didn’t even realize it was him until he handed me his credit card. I asked him, “Are you the David Sedaris?” You could tell he didn’t know how to answer because he said, “If you’re asking if I am David Sedaris the author, then yes, I’m the David Sedaris.” He bought an Ovadia and Sons distressed pink woven shirt. I told him the shirt had a “proud” collar and he laughed, because he’d never heard a collar described as “proud” before. So I thought it was pretty cool that I made David Sedaris laugh!