The PR firm representing J. Press has just announced it will be closing the store in Cambridge, which served Harvard men since the heyday of the Ivy League Look.
Note: J. Press send out a correction. The store was actually opened 86 years ago, not 68 as previously reported, and as indicated in the press release above.
“After 68 years on Mt. Auburn Street.” Sorry, but my forbears opened Squeeze on the ground floor of the then Harvard DU Club in the early 1930s.
‘Til the clouds roll by. Oops, pardon misspelling “forebears.” Remembrance of times past in the battered red brick landmark on Dunster & Mt. Auburn even include using the basement toilet.
So sad! We need more traditional men’s clothing stores, not less. These are ugly times we live in.
I can’t imagine anything else in that space! Sad news.
Agreed. We need more traditional men’s clothing stores, not fewer.
I’m sure they’ll find a great new space in Boston.
Indeed, we do need more traditional men’s clothing stores, not fewer.
My comments two days ago:
roger sack | August 4, 2018 at 1:54 pm |
How does this square with the re-launch of a Manhattan
store? Surely the rent is higher in Manhattan.As mentioned
above, the market in Cambridge may not be there. This does
not augur well for the purist Ivy retailer in the area, the
Andover Shop, which is reportedly up for sale.
The sad days just keep coming. My first purchase in that store was a lovat green Shaggy Dog; it was in 1958 or 1959 and I wore it for decades. Many, many visits there, mostly to buy the Shaggy as I was a primary Brooks customer. Mr. Black always called me every autumn when the new ones arrived. I also mostly wore their khakis and corduroys. The second Sports Illustrated cover with Vic Seixas wearing a Press tweed sport coat was always on the wall.
Well, it doesn’t surprise me. The last time I was in there with my son in the summer of 2013, the attitude was merely they were doing us a favor allowing us to look around. He had recently graduated from college and needed a few things. Needless to say, we left before the door hit us in the posterior on the way out. The old man running the place would have done well to read Jack Mitchell’s book, “Hug Your Customers.” It points, yet again, to the pilgrimage to O’Connell’s in Buffalo. The Hubers have it down pat. While you may think I had a “green bottle of booze” for lunch, I highly recommend you make the trek to Buffalo. You will not be disappointed!
On a side note, when might one expect the autumn/winter collection online? While it’s still a hot hell outside I’m already looking forward to flannels, corduroy and of course shaggy dogs!
@Gerry: agreed. Go to O’Connells. There is no place like it.
Without going to the trouble to find out myself, I wonder who owns that building, Harvard?
The J. Press glen check Vic Seixas wore–circa ’54, right? Pre Heyday narrow lapeled weirdness. The lapels look to be around 3 1/4 inches.
What the colors?
The Vic Seixas SI cover was the third not the second cover. October 1954. The bespoke sport coat was cashmere and was brown-black. I am advised it cost $175 from J Press, New York. The picture was taken at the Los Angeles Tennis Club.
Richard Press could likely inform us if this price is correct.
“It’s unfortunate to have to shut our Cambridge shop….” Unfortunate??? Is that all the passion that corporate can muster?
I had the exact same experience and vowed I’d never go back there. The young staffer was very helpful but when the first shirt didn’t fit, the old gentleman in charge refused me to try on another. I’d just have to take my chances. It’s a sad day to lose another quality retailer, but the service felt as if customers were an annoyance.
Amendment. Meant to write NO pre-Heyday weirdness. Great looking glen check.
S.E. – Thanks for the self-correction. I was beginning to lose faith in you. I too think the coat looks just about perfect.
These customer service experiences are horror stories that stink of complacency. So while I’m sorry folks will inevitably lose their jobs, it sounds like some at this location probably should have retired long ago! When I worked at Jos A. Banks (near the University of Michigan) we had team of people that really strove to ensure every client (no matter their education, wealth, or background) were treated as top-flight customers. Shame a place as grand as J. Press wouldn’t think better than to do that!
The last time I visited the JPress store in New Haven, I thought I was lost in a morgue. I understand the new location is temporary, but–sheesh–it was on an out-of-the-way street closer to Yale New Haven Hospital than campus, and the merchandizing was dreadful. The old codger that “waited” on me could have cared less, and appeared to be merely biding his time until I would leave, and leave him alone. Needless to say, I haven’t been back.
I still have an overcoat and a pair of gray flannels with the tailor. I’d better give him a call…
$175 for Seixas ‘54 custom cashmere Sport Jacket sounds right.
This sounds like a classic case of landlord arrogance. Willing to let a solid, 86 year tenant go in hopes of attracting significantly inflated rent. Thing is retail is so volatile they risk vacancies every couple years which can end up biting them in the ass versus simply letting Press stay at a moderate rate.
An arrogant landlord
Sounds like a fine combination.
Visited the flagship store in NYC in 2003. Was ignored by the salesmen who were more interested in chatting with each other. Bought a couple of ties from an excellent selection, nevertheless.
Walked around the corner (if I’ve got the location right) to Brooks Brothers’ flagship store and found knowledgeable, helpful salespeople but a far less attractive selection of ties.
Interesting tales. In my whole life I don’t think I’ve ever been bothered by a lack of service. More likely is finding a clerk to ring you up when in a large store.
I always want the salespeople to just leave me alone while I look around and ponder.
“Walked around the corner (if I’ve got the location right) to Brooks Brothers’ flagship store and found knowledgeable, helpful salespeople but a far less attractive selection of ties.”
Circa 2003 that would have been true of the San Francisco BB. Now it is largely staffed by
young, ignorant sales people who probably could not get a job at Men’s Wearhouse.
Agree with Christian. While I can’t attest to the quality of customer service at the Cambridge location, I’ve been to both the Washington, DC and NYC locations many times and have experienced only the most appropriate (i.e. not indifferent or arrogant, but not fawning or overbearing either) interactions with staff. Regardless of the difference in experiences, I hope we can all agree that the demise of a storied venue, whether because of declining standards or a new corporate focus on the numbers vs. tradition, is a sad thing– particularly since so many of us are attracted to the general values of high standards, appreciation for the aesthetic details, and yes, tradition — that J Press historically embodied.
The building is owned by the Fly Club.
I say we form a human circle around the location and lash ourselves to the building with repp ties. J.Press must be saved!
Hope they find an alternate location nearby and soon!
@ Christian, the key is to be immediately greeted warmly, letting the customer know you’re there to help. Then step back and let them browse.
@Roger Sack Same for the BB store here in San Antonio.
C-Ville, speaking of great stores, how’s the venerable Eljo’s doing? Once upon a time Southwick’s second best account (second only to The Andover Shop) for CMT. One of Isles Textiles’ best accounts.
Where is it indicated that the rent is the reason for the closing? Even if a business claims that the rent is the reason for closing, it is quite possible that the rent is not the reason.
I have to differ with many of the comments. Over the past decades my experience with the people at J Press in Cambridge has always been spectacular-Dennis, Charlie, now Steve and the recently moved on young Daniel, have all been extremely helpful and knowledgeable. And Tad, the tailor, is the best tailor I have ever seen, hands down, and a wonderful person as well. Both the store and the people will be sorely missed.
Good one, Eric.
An educated guess is that when salesmen recognize the infamous I’m-just-browsing-because-I’m-too-cheap-or-ignorant-to-know-why-I’m-here…they decide to conserve both time and energy. Smart move.
The slow-but-steady demise of trad/Ivy retail outposts would seem to suggest that the “full circle” theory of time and space has prove true yet again. If you want quality Ivy, you’ll need to go MTM or custom or expensive off-the-rack (like Norman Hilton of old). We’re back to pre-pre-Heyday Ivy. How much J. Press’ business was custom in, say, 1920? A lot.
@David Wilson – Agree completely. I always had good experiences in the Harvard Square store. Denis would talk about explaining the J. Press look to younger customers. And Daniel is knowledgeable and anxious to learn from old fogey like me.
I’ve been to the current New York store twice and was treated rather well by the staff on both occasions, even though I only made a purchase on my second visit. It’s a small store so the staff are always near and know to leave you alone. That said, I don’t doubt the veracity of the complaints made by those who have visited the Cambridge store. I remember receiving similar service when I visited my local Brooks Brothers for the first time. The older gentleman in charge flew by me as though I didn’t exist.
“An educated guess is that when salesmen recognize the infamous I’m-just-browsing-because-I’m-too-cheap-or-ignorant-to-know-why-I’m-here…they decide to conserve both time and energy. Smart move.”
Actually, that’s not a very “smart move” as it does not produce a good impression of the store or its staff. What if one wants to browse the store one day and make a purchase the next? They’re more likely to do so if the store has a friendly, versus frigid, atmosphere. I bet that this so-called “smart move” is, at least in part, what led to the store’s demise, as they were unable to attract new customers.
Hmmm, I wonder if J.Press would be interested in buying The Andover Shop.
S.E. – Eljo’s seems to be doing fine down here. Thanks for asking. While they have a decent selection of tailored items on the racks, most of their business is now MTM, still by Southwick although they also use Empire (as, I believe, does J. Press). Their usual house style is a natural shoulder, undarted 2 button coat with dual exhaust, but they can also produce a beautiful 3/2 sack with a hooked vent in any cloth you can imagine. Special-order tweeds are something of a specialty. The owner’s son, who now works here, once worked for J. Press.
As for the salesmen at J. Press, my experience is limited to the DC and NY stores, but I have always found the reception to be warm, and the staff knowledgeable. They greet me upon arrival, leave me alone to browse if that is what I want, and come to my aid if I have a question.
Spoke with Tad (the tailor) yesterday. Seems like the staff is in shock right now. If anybody has any leads on a place for Tad to land, I’m sure he’d be grateful for them.
As to the service, having been a teenager during the 90’s (what I’d call peak mall retail, before the digital decline), we used to play the “Gap Game.” This involved entering the Gap, walking very slowly to the back wall of the store, and touching it, and walking all the way out. The trick is that while performing this feat you cannot speak to, make eye contact with, or otherwise acknowledge the apple-cheeked army of sales associates perkily greeting you at every turn. Breaking out in laughter was an automatic disqualifier.
Even back then, I’ve always taken the approach with sales people that if I need them, I’ll come and find them–they need not hang all over me. While J. Press in Cambridge never greeted me with a brass band, a silent nod for a greeting and attentive service whenever I had an actual question were quite enough for me.
At first, I always wondered if they recognized me when I came in. A couple of years after I started shopping there, I was at a Wynton Marsalis performance at Memorial Hall. I happened to notice Dennis sitting a row in front of me. He noticed me at the same time and maid a point of saying hello and striking up a conversation. Point is, good relationships are not built in a day, and that’s the real tragedy of losing this place.
Sadly, it looks like it’s back to Brooks. My history with their service is best exemplified by time I came in to buy four shirts and was totally ignored for fifteen minutes by their sales associate, who was busy helping some ostentatiously dressed European tourist looking to buy a single tie. A close second would be the time that a pair of their cardboard-like advantage chinos tore in the back because my wallet (a bi-fold that was not overstuffed by any stretch of the imagination) poked a hole through the brittle non-iron cloth around my back pocket. I’d never had that anything like that happen before, and when I took their guarantee at face value and came in to make an exchange, the manager I dealt with looked at me like a cockroach.
At least Keezer’s will soldier on in its new location (for at least a while).
Sad to see it go. In the spring of 1993 I lost about 99% of my wardrobe due to a house fire. We had scheduled a spring break trip visit New England colleges a couple of weeks after the fire and while in Boston, I went to the Cambridge Store, met Denis Black, whose business card with a swatch attached I still have, and because J. Press then stocked my size, 42XL, I was able to replenish a good bit of my wardrobe. Over the years I bought a number of suits and sport coats from Denis by phone. Denis was the consummate professional and always a pleasure to deal with. Alas, no one, save O’Connell’s which stocks a few items in my size, carry XLs any longer.
The closure is covered in the Harvard Crimson:
Interesting that the building’s other tenant, the Bee Club, also moved out. I have to wonder if the Fly Club wants to sell the building and was asking impossible rents in order to drive out the tenants.
I was just there during my law school reunion last year. Seemed a bit dusty, but friendly. Am in complete shock that they are closing. Very fond memories of buying suits for my law firm interviews, being poured a glass of port by the staff as I browsed and made my selections.
I’ve been to the stores in both Cambridge and New Haven, and never rec’d the coldness described in a couple of the above testimonials. I felt the staff provided the proper balance of help and tether. I would say that Andover Shop was not quite as engaging as J Press, but it was nice to have both shops in proximity for comparison shopping.
Harvard itself covered the closure in this article:
The old J. Press space in Cambridge is still up for rent. I don’t know how long it usually takes to find a tenant, but one has to wonder if the landlord miscalculated. Months of vacancy can’t be good for the bottom line.
No one mentions where all responsibilities lie when a store closes or customers aren’t comfortable shopping there. The fish stinks from the head. All blame goes to the owners. If they don’t know their customer then disaster follows.