Lanksy Bros.: Love Me Tender

Uptown/Downtown Awards — Readers’ Choice

With a third generation firmly entrenched in the business, Lansky Bros. is shaking things up in Memphis.

Hal Lanksy and Julie LanskyWe don’t feel worthy of it, but we’ll take it!” says Hal Lansky upon learning of this special award from the readership of MR Magazine. “It must be because of my dad,” suggests Julie Lansky, referring to Hal. “He’s earned the respect of our vendors based on his genuine integrity in business.” “It’s really about my dad,” insists Hal. “Bernard Lansky believed that your word is your bond; you do what you say you’ll do. More importantly, he always treated everyone with respect and kindness. That’s all I ever saw.”

Clearly, theirs is a retail environment like few others. “We’re not really in the retail business: we’re in the entertainment business,” Hal explains. “We get new customers every few days so when we have a good item, we can run it to death! Other stores change their styles regularly so their customers don’t get bored; we can keep running the same styles because our customers keep changing! It’s especially fun because The Peabody is the grand hotel of the South: we meet interesting people from all over the world who are on vacation, so they’re in a good mood. (And when people are in a good mood, they spend money!)

“For example, we have this one shirt from Nat Nast that we’ve been running for seven years. We’ve sold many thousands of them: it’s named after Walking in Memphis, a song that’s an anthem for our city. So three to four months ago, I heard that Marc Cohn (who wrote the song) was in town for a concert and of course I wanted to get him a shirt. So what happens? The phone rings and it’s his manager asking if we have this shirt! So they come into the store, do some shopping, invite us to the concert and even give us a shout-out from the stage!”

Hal details other “forever” items at Lansky’s: “We have a wedding jacket (our own brand made by Peerless) which is based on the jacket Elvis wore when he married Priscilla in 1967. The lining features photos of Elvis with my dad. We tell customers they can get married in it or buried in it. And you should see our blue suede shoes from Hush Puppies.”

If he sounds like the quintessential salesman, he doesn’t feel it. “I’ll never be my dad,” he laments. “I don’t have his personality, or his incredible selling skills. Even today, people come into the store and reminisce about Bernard Lansky, about how cool he was. But Julie and I will keep the legend going. Our new store is a total tribute to Bernard, who taught me to stay positive, to get out there and put a smile on my face and appreciate the day. He was always so happy to be in that store, and that energy inspired everyone around him.”

A new store is set to open later this month on 126 Beale Street in their original location. Joining forces with the Hard Rock Café, they are creating a Memphis music experience featuring a Hard Rock Café, the Memphis Music Hall of Fame museum, and a Clothier to the King store selling vintage-inspired sport shirts, jackets, T-shirts, shoes and sweaters (80 percent men’s, 20 percent women’s, all private label). Music paraphernalia will showcase the store’s history; Bernard Lansky is surely smiling from heaven.

Lansky Bros exterior

Lansky Bros. in a Nutshell

Established: 1946 on Beale Street
Noteworthy News: About to open a fifth door, a new heritage shop on Beale Street, in addition to four shops at the Peabody Hotel.
Claim to Fame: Bernard Lansky sold clothing to Elvis when he was just starting out, extending credit when he couldn’t afford to pay.
Ratio Private Label to Branded: 35/65
Ratio Men’s to Women’s: 65/35
Online Sales: 12% to total and growing
Beale Street Musicians and Customers: Elvis, Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison, Isaac Hayes, Jerry Lee Lewis, B.B. King, Otis Redding and more.

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