Ivy Style recently welcomed St. Johns Bay Rum as a sponsor. Turns out owner Jerry Woodhouse has a long history of dressing college men. Read on for Freshman Dressing 101, with an outfit that looks as cool today as it did 50 years ago.
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I got started in the “Ivy” retail business in 1958 when I joined a company that had one store on the campus at Ohio State called The University Shop. That same year we opened our second store at Ohio University, where I became manager. From ’58 to ’71 we would open 23 University Shops at other major campuses, including Purdue, Bowling Green, University of Kentucky, University of Cincinnati, University of Georgia, Auburn, University of Alabama, Tulane, University of Florida, and Clemson.
The clothing formula for our customers was to put them in a Baracuta jacket, Gant shirt, Canterbury belt, Corbin khakis, Adler socks, Bass Weejuns, and St. Johns Bay Rum. Unbeknowst to me, I would one day come to be the owner of the latter.
I the late ’60s and early ’70s dress on campuses changed drastically from blazers and tweed jackets to peace beads, tie-die shirts, and bell-bottom pants. I knew the Ivy League Look’s heyday was over when in one of our stores at Ohio State we offered Gant oxford blue button down shirts for 50 cents and had no takers!
In 1972 I left the University Shops and opened Woodhouse Lynch Clothiers in downtown Columbus, Ohio. We carried holdover brands from the campus days, such as Corbin, Southwick and Norman Hilton.
Woodhouse Lynch grew to three stores by 1978, when I left to purchase the West Indies Bay Company in St. Thomas, makers of St. Johns Bay Rum.
In the 1980s St. Johns became the scent of Madison Avenue. The FR Tripler store on Madison Avenue was St. Johns Bay Rum’s biggest account. In 1986 Brooks Brothers began to carry St. Johns Bay Rum. It immediately outsold Royall Lyme Bermuda Ltd., which had been established in Brooks many years before. St. Johns Bay Rum was represented in the menswear industry by Myron McIntire Associates, and then by John Mendez British Apparel, both located on Madison Avenue.
I’ve continued to combine the classic scent of bay rum with classic American menswear. In March 2011 The West Indies Bay Company opened its flagship store in St. Thomas on the waterfront in downtown Charlotte Amalie. Along with St. Johns Bay Rum and its companion fragrances, we offer clothing and accessories from Berle, Southwick and Alden.
Whether from California or New England, visiting tourists are drawn in because of fond memories from the past, while for others it’s their first time seeing classic merchandise with its timeless fit, quality and patterns. — JERRY WOODHOUSE
From 1958-1972 Jerry Woodhouse worked for The University Shops, ultimately serving as vice president. He has been president of the West Indies Bay Company since 1978.