Last month a salesman from Langrock named Frank Mennella left a comment on G. Bruce Boyer’s post about the legendary Princeton clothier. Ivy Style followed up and asked for further recollections from Mr. Menella, and the comment and his subsequent email have been combined below with minor edits.
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I just read this article for the first time and walked back in time. My name is Frank Mennella. I am 64 years old and lived in Princeton from the age of 6 to 55. I worked at Langrock from 1965-1978, from the age of 10 (yes 10!) getting coffee for Mr. Decker and Alan Frank, unitl the age of 21 when I was one of the salesman and probably met most of you.
My brother Louis was there for 25+ years and was VP until 1984. Both my father, Pasquale Mennella, and uncle Camillo were tailors in the back room, along with James Rendino, who also was my uncle on my mother’s side. I put out and set up all those ties on that very table, plus shirts and argyle socks and sweaters. Although I didn’t meet most of them, we had clients like T.S. Elliot, Oppenheimer, Einstein, and Andy Rooney. I met James Stewart every year when he returned for the reunions, and Rosie Grier when he came for the Giant Eagle games played in Princeton.
Hymie Decker was my mentor, and Alan Frank was all business. I credit my career to all that I experienced there. I still have ties, cashmere sweaters, and remember all the custom clothes I had made at age 16, since I had an inside connection to the tailor shop, unbeknownst to Decker and Frank! Great memories.
Another memory was that Hymie Decker, owner and partner to Alan Frank, was by far the greatest salesman of all time. He would stand in the back with his pipe in his mouth, sometimes lit other times not, and just peruse the customers in the store. And then, just like when Babe Ruth pointed out his home run to right field, he would announce to me or any other salesperson standing near him, “I’m gonna sell that guy $1,000 worth of suits.” You have to remember what $1,000 would buy you in the ’60s and ’70s, when a new Corvette was $3,500. Sure enough the customer never new what hit him, and then he would leave the accessories to the little salespeople like me to pick out ties, shirts, belts, etc., for another $300 to $400.
He was just fun to watch when he pulled out all his tricks. He would have some stranger or an employee walk into the room where the unsuspecting customer was trying on the suits, and tell them how great it looked on him. Not that it didn’t, but the assurance would lock the deal. And if the customer was trying to figure out which one he wanted, Hymie would tell him, “You should buy all three.” And there were so many others.
In the ending years, when they had to relocate to a smaller, less expensive location, all the walnut paneling, mirrors, and grandfather clocks had to be removed. My wife reminds me that we still have one of the framed full-length mirrors in our bathroom. — FRANK MENNELLA
Terrific memories, as only a true Clothing Man can recall!
The Giant/Eagles games in Princeton were only exhibition games as I recall. About ten sponsored by the Jaycees. A great remembrance. Always as a salesman you were to sell a suit and at least one shirt and belt as well.
Any Info on D’ Andrea Bros? Mr Rendino was hired from them.
The attached is self-explanatory .It is my comment from 2012
Reference was made to the fact that the tailor,Mr. Rendino was recruited by Langrock from D ‘Andrea Bothers in New
York. My late uncle, who died in the mid 80s, wore bespoke clothing from a Manhattan tailor named D’Andrea. My
uncle’s style was definitely not Ivy, but late 50s early 60s contemporary, a more conservative version of the Oceans
11 look. Anyone have information on D’Andrea?
Superb. Thank you for this.
I would have walked out of the shop the moment that Mr. Decker tried those tactics on me.
I used to shop there. Great place.
“I would have walked out of the shop the moment that Mr. Decker tried those tactics on me.”
I shopped at the “smaller, less expensive location” a couple times. I used to wander from The English Shop, to Langrock, to Harry Ballot. This was in the early-mid ’80s. I’m sure there were more shops like this in the heyday.
The Gutmann piece this article links to in the Princeton alumni magazine is sad in its own way but deserves comment. The salesmen shouldn’t have acted as they did–their manners should’ve shown grace and hospitality, especially in the event that the Gutmann family was simply poor and had nothing else. In that case perhaps most could agree with that. But it’s also the case both that people judge you by what you wear in the real world and if you expect certain kind of treatment a minimal level of etiquette varies by occasion. Perhaps some of you have actually ventured into parts where “no shirts, no shoes, no service” signs exist at the lowest levels of essential business. So it doesn’t seem unreasonable to me for one to expect that shopping for a suit in Princeton at Langrock is an occasion that requires a change of clothes from farming fields, and that the expectation now is the reverse–the clear assumption of the piece–is a reflection of our times. The Beat thinkers and writers clearly rebelled against this, but for them such treatment was implicitly a part of their identity existing outside the mainstream and expected. Today it is the man in a tie who is the social outcast in a world of required, conformist nonconformity, ostensibly and arguably erroneously under the guise of ‘democratic values’ and social intercourse.
Wow, Langrocks! Elegant/Sporty/Preppy. Lived in Metuchen, at the time and throughout the mid-60ties on, would frequent Langrocks Was particularly addicted to their English Hosiery/Socks, particularly their ‘Anchor Socks’, in Red, Navy Blue, White! Haven’t been able to locate them since. The Ben Silver Collection is only place that I’m aware of that still provides some of that ‘style’.