Back in 1959 when I entered the family business at the J. Press New York store, Uncle Irving Press took me to lunch at the Yale Club, a custom he followed when hiring each salesperson at his 44th Street store. Together with the grill room lunch he fed me were his Golden Rules.
1. Study the current J. Press Brochure and learn it by heart.
2. Respect your customer. He (or she) didn’t come to J. Press to socialize with you. No first names. When you finish the transaction (even without a purchase) offer your card letting the customer know you would be pleased to serve them again.
3. Ask if they have received the J. Press Brochure and if not offer to put them on the mailing list.
4. Ask how they got to J. Press. Any friends, classmates, business associates, relatives who favored the store.
5. Don’t be afraid to suggest additional merchandise selections. Know your stock well enough to provide history and derivation of each garment, wearing qualities and style details.
6. Review each day’s customer transactions. Memorize their names, whatever personal history disclosed. Note their clothing preferences. Learn what brought them into the store—classmates, friends, business associates, magazine, newspaper ads.
Irving positioned me at the front door to greet prospective customers. My routine: ”Hi, I’m Richard Press. Welcome to J. Press. How may we help you?” If they just care to look around—“Suits are in the back,” point to sport coats, trousers and offer this sage advice, “Don’t be afraid to mess up the ties. They’re here to be explored, felt and touched.” If the prospective patron needs further attention, steer them to the next salesperson “on call.”
The Golden Rules of Irving Press still hold fast at the institution bearing his father’s name. Times may have changed, but J. Press is
nearly alone promoting American Style in our historic Specialty Stores that continue to honor tireless customer service, careful attention to all details of production and craft, realistic pricing and unstinting recognition of the superior taste of a demanding but unfailingly loyal clientele.
Many years ago, my father in law, Dr. John P. Ottaway from Grosse Pointe Michigan and I walked into J. Press New York and Irving Press said ," Jack Ottaway, how are you?" He remembered him from Andover.. Amazing, Pete Dow
After all these years I still miss the San Francisco store. I used to fly from LA to San Francisco for $29 bucks on PSA Buy a suit at Press, go to Tadich Grill and fly back all in the same day.
A few years ago, not looking for anything particular, I stopped at the 44th Street store between meetings. Sure enough, I was greeted immediately by a well-dressed (and old-school) gent. I remember vividly, after making introductions, he looked me over and said “40 regular” and then guided me to a very sharp blazer and assured me it would fit perfectly, it did, and I couldn’t resist. Reading this piece brought me back to that day. By the way, he handed me his card which I still have today, the legendary Jay Walter.
As an occasional customer of your Cambridge,Mass store
back then, I wish to be placed on the J Press brochure mailing list at your convenience
195 Pleasant St # 320
Malden, MA 02148
Sadly, JPress seems to be the last one standing. A trip to downtown Chicago in late August took me past the Rookery Building site of JPress’ former main competitor, empty and shut down by pandemic, riots, and bankruptcy. I, too, wish JPress were in Chicago, but at least there is jpressonline.com .
Many years ago back in New Haven I was treated rather rudely by one of your competitors when, after the completion of the full-price transaction and fitting of my new brown, three-piece herringbone suit, I learned upon delivery that a 50% sale was upcoming on that item but the sale price would not be honored for me. I never bought from that haberdasher again..
Superb piece. Yet another reason I regret living in California – no JPress store!
Rules of civility
Irving Press was Yale ‘24 & Yale Law School’26. Skull and Bones would have been lucky to have him as a member.
Your uncle was a wise man and his advice sounds very similar to that given me in my first job bagging groceries in a big California supermarket. Such wisdom stands the test of time for almost any vocation: doctor, teacher, lawyer, auto mechanic, politician, even parents would benefit by practicing these principles. Thanks again for your stories.
Was Irving Yale graduate and in Skull & Bones?
Restore the patch breast pocket to the doeskkin blaxer
Well said. However in these times, I still use the telephone to purchase items. Your company also does very well in this area. Thanks again for being a full service store!!!!
Interesting and those were very good rules to follow.
When will you be back in Cambridge?