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