By Jeff Maisey
Last month we shared a story about a local women’s clothing store – NYFO Boutique – having continued success in a challenge time for retail. This time we’ll swap genders and tell you about The Quality Shops. Ironically, both have locations at the Palace Shops on 21st Street in Norfolk.
The Quality Shops celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2017. Siblings Reid and Steve Rapoport are third generation owner/operators of the fine menswear retailer started by their grandfather, Morris Rapoport, in downtown Portsmouth in 1917. The original location operated as a men’s hat shop. Over the years Morris added suits, sport coats and shirts.
According to Reid, his father, Herman Rapoport, was also involved with the business and opened a location in downtown Norfolk’s financial district in 1963. In 2009, the downtown location was moved to its current location in Ghent.
While Reid largely oversees the financial side of the business from the Ghent store, brother Steve handles the duties as buyer from the Hilltop location in Virginia Beach (opened in 1993), traveling to buyer-markets in New York City.
Like NYFO Boutique, The Quality Shops’ retail success derives from its commitment to quality service and products, providing a unique shopping experience from trusted professionals who also double as image consultant; something an online retail outlet cannot compete with.
As Reid tells it a size 34 waste pair of trousers from one designer may fit differently than those from another. There is no substitute for trying-on clothing and looking in a full-length mirror. Plus, customers really want to touch the garment to sense how the fabric will feel on their skin.
Over the years, Reid and Steve have observed changing preferences in style, and kept up with the times.
“I think the trend in merchandising from strictly suits and sport coats for business has changed to more casual,” Reid said. “We’ve tried to stay-up with those trends by offering more casual apparel.”
In tailor clothing, The Quality Shops carry brands such as Peter Millar and Jack Victor. Sportswear brands include Scott Barber, Millar and AG Jeans.
“The sportswear market is where the excitement is when you go to New York for apparel shows,” said Reid.
To a large degree, the clientele of The Quality Shops continues to be businessmen, but Reid has also noticed a growing customer base of late 20-somethings serving in the military.
“It’s a pretty good cross section of men in different professions and ages,” he said.
Reid Rapoport believes The Quality Shops’ competitive advantage is a combination of factors
“It comes from working with our father and grandfather and the life-long lessons we learned about consistent quality, offering unique products in the menswear industry, and the personalized service,” said Reid. “We try to get to know our customers. We want them to feel comfortable when they come in the stores. It’s just a different type of approach. And we have long-term staff who have been in this business for their careers.”
Indeed, most customers to the Ghent location are greeted with a smile and expert advice from Ulysses Johnson. At Hilltop, it’s Lew Klima. Both men live and breathe the business, and the consumers truly benefits.
The Quality Shops use both print advertising and social media to draw customers into the physical store location.
“It works,” said Reid. “The branding of quality and the consistency of that message over the decades is key.”