Après le Déluge

Après le Déluge

I still recall the plethora of menswear specialty shops surrounding the Eli campus during the Ivy Heyday. They’re all now gone with the wind except J. Press, fittingly expanding to its new headquarters at 262 Elm Street around the corner from its historic landmark done in by the Blizzard of 2013.

The Elm City Honor Roll of menswear retailers and custom tailors lining York Street, Broadway, Elm and Chapel Streets included Chipp, Rosenthal & Maretz, Fenn-Feinstein, White’s, Gentree, Saks Menswear, Arthur M. Rosenberg, Langrock, DePinna, Westbrook Tailors, Yale Co-op Men’s Shop and Rosey (the vintage entrepreneur on whatever street he took his gear where Yalie’s pawned their custom suits for cash until their next allowance).

My memory growing up in New Haven during the late ‘40s and early ‘50s grows dimmer but can’t let go of halfback Levi Jackson running wild evading tacklers in the Yale Bowl, Ezio Pinza chanting Some Enchanted Evening to Mary Martin in the Shubert Theatre South Pacific tryout, and throwing up my guts on the Savin Rock rollercoaster after gorging on locally famous Jimmy’s Lobster Rolls.

J. Press made the cut into the 21s century by carefully adhering to the Golden Rules promulgated by my eponymous grandfather Jacobi Press:

1) Promote the long-term value of the product.

2) Police the quality of craft.

3) Respond to the unique wardrobe requirements of a targeted customer base.

Menswear specialty shops are mostly extinct, but J. Press holds down the fort. One of the reasons was elucidated to me by Frank Sinatra during his late ‘60s Squeeze patronage. After sweating through a strenuous fitting of suits and blazers with fitter Felix Samelson, he says to me, “Hey Richie, let’s get the hell out of here for a couple of Jack Daniels.” I took him across the street to the pocket size bar next door to Brooks Brothers opposite us on 44th Street. Soon after we arrived, in walks a squad of Brooks salesmen, each of them bowing in obeisance to Ol’ Blue Eyes. “Let’s get the hell away from these f—-g creeps,” Sinatra said as we escaped to the back of the long dark narrow room avoiding their prying eyes and ears.

“Used to get all my stuff on the coast from Dick Carroll, great guy, but you’re my New York guy now,” he confided. “Richie, love your place and can’t stand that joint next door. Different guy waits on you for shirts, then another one for neckties. Schlep to different floors and new sales guys for blazers than another one on another floor for suits. Pain in the ass. Not like your joint. Ken Trommers takes care of me from soup to nuts. He sniffs whatever I need.”

The cast has changed but Grandpa’s rules stand tall. Sinatra is history but the melody lingers on.






By the time I reached New Haven, Chipp, Gentree (where I first experie nced hopsack weave and lap seams) and Saks had retreated to 44th Street. Langrock established a grand new Princeton home on Nassau Street and was joined by The English Shop, Douglas MacDaid, The University Store and Maurice Pearce. Only a few blocks away, I lived in Princeton and had all these purveyors of Ivy style available to me, with Langrock as my prime destination.

Stanley Pilshaw

Unfortunately, growing up in the dreaded Los Angeles in late 50s and early 60s, we did not have the variety of traditional clothing shops that allowed for the choices available in the east. There was the”real” Brooks Brothers in downtown LA, and a few elsewhere, small shops, that at least provided quality goods. I have fond memories of Lew Ritter, in Westwood Village, before Westwood became a an urban nightmare. All are long gone. Now living on the Central Coast, my only ready choice is JPress. I am thankful for that, to say the very least. You fortunate few in the East!

Virgil Evans

I remember a tailor at your Cambridge store in the late 50s named Frank Martin (maybe Martinelli). I I I I had a loose button on a tweed overcoat (replete with a velvet collar) that I had purchased at your Cambridge store. While I was browsing at the tie table your tailor Frank Martin (Martinnelli ? spotted me, bolted out of his work area and took me by the arm exclaiming, “Oh MR. Carroll let me tighten up that button before you loose it! “
Now that’s service!!

Dan Carroll

I used to call Jerry Haber and tell him I was coming to New York from Philadelphia, usually on a Saturday morning, I came to the store and he had preselected a regal selection of suits, ties, sport coats-whatever I had told him I was in the market for on that day.A class act on all counts. Today, I contact Robert Wolf in New York in a similar vein. The purchases are smaller these days-a pair of pants, maybe a belt, a cardigan shaggy dog, a polo shirt-whatever-but the same class A service. I had the same experience with Arthur Noble in Washington years ago.There is no other store like J. Press-same personal service whether you are Frank Sinatra or me. I am a customer forever.

Gary Glazer

Somewhere in the Yale Alumni Magazine archives of the late ‘70s or early ’80s there is a story on the demise of the men’s specialty clothing stores in New Haven. As I recall, the demise was brought on by the infiltration of the hippie movement into the general culture. America has not recovered from that infiltration, but those of us who still wear J. Press are at least keeping up appearances!

Robert W. Emmaus