Two Great Stores in Syracuse

Part of the joy of being on the Retail Advisory Board of the Whitman School at Syracuse University (one of very few business schools in the country to offer a retailing major) is visiting my alma mater and hanging around the SU campus (pizza at Cosmos on Marshall Street is a must!) That said, I also love working with Whitman’s talented students and amazing professors, as well as visiting local menswear stores. This trip, I had time for only two, but they were good ones!

At Cosmos the go-to pizza place on the SU campus

Whitman's freshman class

Whitman’s freshman class

Dinner with retail advisory board

Dinner with the Retail Advisory Board

Mr.Shop at Armory Square

Running around Armory Square in Syracuse with Joel Shapiro from Mr.Shop, it’s clear this man could run for mayor if he chooses. Virtually every well-dressed guy we passed on the street was a Mr.Shop customer, spontaneously singing the praises of their favorite store. But instead of politics, Shapiro these days is devoting all his efforts to Mr.Shop, having recently sold his three nearby women’s stores. His latest innovation: a fabulous in-store custom shop for MTM clothing, furnishings and accessories.

Store manager John Massara with highly energized sellers Tara DeSalvo and Ben Salibra

Store manager John Massara with highly energized sellers Tara DeSalvo and Ben Salibra

Mr.Shop’s sizzling hot footwear section

Mr.Shop’s sizzling hot footwear section

Mr.Shop, founded by Joel’s dad in 1959, is a 4,000 sq. ft. Syracuse landmark in the newly trendy Armory Square. (When you visit, be sure to have lunch around the corner at Small Plates—fabulous food and great ambiance!) The store vibe is contemporary but not over the top; strong brands include Eton, ZZegna, Hugo Boss, Alberto, Citizens, Theory, Lone Pine, Gimos, and Victorinox. Store manager John Massara reports lots of action in their newly exciting footwear area (Donald Pliner, Cole Haan, Hugo Boss) and strong sales in the new custom shop featuring MTM suits from Trands at retails from $795 to $1,895. In addition to all the usual customization (fabulous linings, buttons, thread color, etc), their young sellers came up with the idea of embroidering personal messages inside the back collar so when flipped up, new grooms will announce “I DO” and star athletes will announce “Most Feared” (or whatever moves them…).

Off the rack, the number one suit in the store is still a mohair blend from ZZegna at $1,295 retail. “Much of what we sell these days is clean, trim and sophisticated,” confirms Massara. “For example in our Eton shirts (a hot business at average retails of $250), a good half of the mix is slim fit; cutaway collars are also coming on strong.” In bottoms, Massara reports strong sales in colored five pockets: brick red, burgundy, plum and forest green. And with the start of cold weather, the store has sold out of two different styles of Gimos coats (wool, $1,395 retail); gorgeous shearlings from Lone Pine ($3,495 retail) are also starting to check. So let it snow!

J. Michael Shoes on Marshall Street, Syracuse University

Store manager James Hicks with store owner John Vavalo

Store manager James Hicks with store owner John Vavalo

Men’s apparel is 25 percent of store volume

Men’s apparel is 25 percent of store volume

Well into its 30th year, the mix at this campus favorite is 25 percent menswear. Hot lines these days include Vineyard Vines, Thomas Dean, Patagonia, Penfield, True Grit and Canada Goose. Shoes comprise about 50 percent of store business (they started out with just women’s shoes, then added women’s clothing and accessories, and then men’s); current footwear best-sellers include Sperry Topsiders, Toms and Vince Camuto. J. Michael also does a fabulous job in eyewear: cool $14 sunglasses are creatively hung by the front register, generating tons of impulse purchasing. At the time of my visit, the store was undergoing some expansion and renovation, boding well for the next 30 years…

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