Reflections on Twenty Five Years
How could a post like this not begin with clichés? “Where did the time go?” “Time sure flies when you’re having fun!” After 25 years, even these cliché sentiments have turned out to be completely valid. Twenty-five years of sole proprietorship in the same location . . . Monday through Saturday, with doors open for business 58 hours a week. It’s hard to believe, but it’s been 25 years since Harrison Limited officially was born. It was 1992, and things were a bit different.
In 1992, no one had a cell phone. No one had an email address. If you were starting a business and watching your expenses, you even had to worry about spending too much time on a long-distance phone call. There was no social media (gasp!) –no Facebook, no Twitter, no Instagram. No one was using the internet (double gasp!!), and there were certainly no internet sales, because no one had a website. Oh how technology has changed.
Today, we wouldn’t dream of doing business without any of these new tools. Today, they seem essential if not mandatory. I’m not the earliest adopter of new technology, though I was the first guy in my fraternity house to own a CD player (in 1984). But some innovations and new trends have greater payoffs than others, and deciding where to expend your energy to the greatest effect can be difficult. Keeping up with all of this, while also trying to keep a shop open year after year, can sometimes leave a shopkeeper wondering where the real payoff is.
Men’s clothing styles have also changed a great deal in the last 25 years. In 1992, men were just beginning to embrace pleated trousers. Full in fit, with large thigh, knee, and bottom measurements, these trousers draped like the clothes of 1940s icons Fred Astaire and Cary Grant. Shirtings were fuller in the body and jackets, too, had fuller armholes, broader shoulders, and wider lapels. Today, the prevailing trend, as I’m sure most of you are aware, is trim, trimmer, and trimmest. Believe it or not, even this trend isn’t new. A few years ago, a good customer with even better taste, walked into the shop and declared that he wanted all of his new clothing to fit like the suit he was holding in his hand. And what was it? A 25-year-old Norman Hilton suit. I asked him to leave it with me so I could dissect its DNA, and I discovered that every single one of its vital measurements was within 1/8” to the specifications listed on one of our vendors’ “new/old” models.
Moments like this remind me that “fashion” has never been a word with which I am very comfortable. I think magazines use “fashion” to produce sales. I prefer the term “style,” because style lives inside a person. Fashion can be right or wrong, according to the pundits of the day, but style is always right when it is a natural, authentic extension of a man’s work life, social life, and family life. The key to good style? Just be yourself.
On March 6, 1992, Harrison Limited opened its doors for business for the very first time. On this day, every year for the last 25 years, my sister-in-law, Holly Simmons, has brought me a bottle of wine at the shop to celebrate and encourage me. I often joke that Harrison Limited was born because I’m really good at knowing one thing—how to get dressed in the morning. And now Harrison Limited is a small, semi-proud business that can claim 25 years of legitimate existence because of that one thing. But none of that means anything without remembering the most basic reason for our continued presence in the community: that so many people along the way have made such lasting impressions on my life, and such significant contributions to 25 years of Harrison Limited.
First of all, our staff—though it seems plain wrong to just call them “staff”. For me, it was much, much closer to family. Alex Lockett, Wilson Matthews, Marty Crawford, Bennie Johnson, Mathew King, Calvin Reynolds. Also friends of the shop like Terry Slaughter and David Ytterberg. Each of you and your individual efforts and contributions humble me. I am truly grateful for each of the relationships we have been able to share.
I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge some industry people who have taught me how to conduct business and how to treat people. Woody Appleby, Miller French, the late Sam Jones, Bob Jensen, Rick Montavon. You guys are especially spectacular ambassadors of our increasingly tiny cottage trade. Each of you helps make me stronger.
Finally, but most importantly, you don’t make it 25 years in retail without a family that is loaded with grace and long-suffering. Missed soccer games, late arrivals at recitals, and abbreviated spring breaks are the casualties of owning a small retail business. Oh, and I almost forgot: don’t try to go anywhere during Christmas either. Margaret Ann, Caroline, Courtenay, and Ann Lacey, thank you for your patience. I am truly grateful and am a better man because of each of you.
Thank you for 25 years, from a guy who simply figured out how to be good at getting dressed in the morning.