Brooks Brothers’ bankruptcy is fueled in part by having too many retail stores in nearly every corner of the globe.
But there was a time when the brand maintained a presence in only two places outside of New York. And these were not in other bastions of the eastern establishment, such as Boston, Philadelphia or Washington, but rather the playgrounds of New York’s elite: Newport and Palm Beach. It’s interesting that before Brooks went after other urban communities as purveyor of dress suitable for politicians, attorneys and captains of industry, it went after the captains of yachts.
Brooks opened in Newport in 1909 and Palm Beach in 1924, and didn’t begin catering to proper Bostonians until 1928. Here’s a passage from the Brooks Brothers book “Generations of Style:”
Despite being over 100 years old and immensely successful, Brooks Brothers had always seemed uninterested in expanding outside Manhattan. Prior to the Twenties, the company had established only one outpost, a seasonal operation in Newport, opened in 1909. Not much is made of it in any Brooks literature, but one suspects that the store was never intended to make much money. Rather, the Newport shop served as a kind of Traveler’s Aid for the yachting set: always at the ready with a pair of white flannels when a misfortune beside the Vanderbilt’s pool rendered a previous pair inoperable. At any rate, a few years later, as changing taste and more rapid travel options prompted the Newport set to season farther afield, Brooks decamped as well. A second seasonal operation opened in Palm Beach, FL, in December 1924; the Depression prompted its demise in 1933.
I asked Brooks if they had any images of these first two shops outside New York, and they sent these over. The top image is from 1924, while the two below are from ’34. The second one makes note of Brooks’ traveling representatives whose territory included many prep schools and colleges, but only east of the Mississippi. — CC
This post originally ran in 2012 and has been updated.