Interview with Gary Ritacco, owner of Uniform, a favorite men’s clothing store in Boston’s hip South End.
Uniform location and hours:
511 Tremont St., Boston, MA 02116-6306
Mon closed. Tu,W 11-7pm. Th, Fr, Sa 11-8pm. Sun 12-5pm.
When did you open Uniform, and what was the inspiration behind it?
We opened in April 2005. I felt there was a niche that needed to be filled in Boston. There were a lot of very high-end stores on Newbury St. and then there were the big box stores. There weren’t any independent men’s boutiques. I wanted to bring in contemporary lifestyle clothing to Boston. I go to Austin, TX every year to the South by Southwest music festival and would always stop by a store there called Service Men’s. They were an inspiration for me. Service and Uniform do different things, but we have similar aesthetics and sensibilities.
Why did you decide to open your store in the South End of Boston? Tell us what you love about your neighborhood?
I love the South End in Boston. I live 2 minutes from the store. We’re a growing neighborhood with a thriving community feel. It’s a bit off the beaten path, so we’re a destination store. But we have great adjacencies- art galleries, restaurants, a women’s boutique, and a community theater.
How does the visual design of Uniform define your retail identity and/ or affect customers’ shopping experience?
We had a wonderful designer help us with the store. People often think we’re part of a chain, because the store is so well designed. They’re surprised when I tell them we’re an independent store. I like happy colors like orange and yellow, which are reflected in our logo and throughout our store design. Uniform has a great flow and a clean uncluttered feel. We have cool music and videos playing, and a seating area to sit and relax if you’re just along for the ride. We have three giant windows in front so we get nice light.
We have a lot of mannequins, which we change out weekly. We use them to display whole outfits and looks. Instead of having all the shirts in one section, we have racks with items that coordinate well together. So we’ll have a rack set up with a shirt and a sneaker that could be paired with a dressier pant. Now we are carrying hats, so we’ll display a hat that completes the look. Some guys don’t like to ask for help, so we like to give them ideas. We want to make it easy for them without a lot of pressure.
Do you get a lot of feedback from customers on your website and Facebook? How does this affect your business?
Yes, those avenues give us more exposure and keep us connected to our customers. 2008 was our best year ever. 2009 has been an anomaly because of the economic situation. But we’ve been maintaining our sales volume by focusing on our website and Facebook. We re-vamped the website 6 months ago and have gotten great feedback from the new look of the site.
Do you have in-store events at Uniform?
We have regular in-store events with music, drinks, and special one-night sales for our regular customers. So be sure to stop in and ask what’s coming up.
How do you decide which lines to carry in your store?
I look at the whole brand, not just individual pieces. I have a very personal approach. I’m not so concerned with the trends. I choose things that I like. I love color! I rarely have black and white in the store.
How long have you been carrying Spiewak Outerwear?
Since day one. Spiewak was the first company I sat down with when deciding which lines to carry in the store. I wanted Uniform to be accessible in terms of style, comfort, ease of wear, and price point, while still being fashion forward and contemporary. Spiewak encompasses all of those things. Great design, high quality, and the price is amazing. Uniform’s store philosophy fits in with Spiewak.
Besides Spiewak, what other lines inspire you and inspire loyalty in your customers?
Original Penguin, Modern Amusement, and Victorinox are some favorites.
What are the two most important pieces every man needs to add to their wardrobe for Fall 2009?
Outerwear is really important. I like hybrid pieces that are easy to wear to the office and work through the evening. A perfect example is Spiewak’s Durand Jacket which functions as both outerwear and a sports coat. It’s very versatile. Also Spiewak’s waterproof Systems Field Jacket has a removable inner liner that can be worn by itself, or together with the outer jacket. It’s three jackets in one. Another important item for fall would be a great cardigan. I’m a huge fan of the shawl-collared cardigan. Not everyone can pull it off, but it’s a terrific look.
What are your personal favorite items at Uniform right now?
We have a shawl-collared cardigan by Loomstate in chocolate brown that is perfect for fall. Loomstate only uses organic fibers and vegetable dyes. Another favorite is Trovata’s cashmere sweater with patch-work elbows and wooden buttons on the cuffs. The color is an amazing celery green. The Gifford Jacket by Spiewak has awesome leather trim details and nice lines.
Uniform Promo Code Spiewak Rocks valid for 10% off Spiewak in-store purchases at Uniform’s Boston store now through 11-28-09. Promo code cannot be combined with any other promotion or discount.