By Pamela Doherty
After 52 years of selling men’s attire in Tucson, Franklin’s clothing store shut its doors in June. But owner George Fangmann is hardly out of business.
“It was time for a new beginning,” Fangmann said.
Fangmann operated the centrally located Franklin’s at the Plaza at Williams Center for almost 20 years. In October, he launched George’s, his fresh rendition of a men’s clothing store, now situated in the foothills at Skyline and Campbell.
“I had the opportunity to reinvent and I took it,” he said.
According to Fangmann, Franklin’s enjoyed the highest volume of sales in its history in 2007, and when the economy fell into a tailspin, so too did the shop’s revenue, dropping precipitously over a four- year period.
When financial backing and the availability of a choice new site fell into place at the same time, Fangmann said it took him “about a minute to decide” before he bounded forward.
“A specialty clothing store is a dying breed, because the department stores and national chains make it difficult for a smaller retailer to compete,” he said. “Although I liked the location and my landlords were absolutely great, we would have not survived if we stayed in the same place any longer.”
In fact, the new venue – about half the size of the former Franklin’s – has already attracted clientele from area resorts, expanding Fangmann’s customer base.
Fangmann teamed up with a branding agency out of San Francisco and local architects Jay Hanson and Michael Franks of Seaver Franks, who created the design concept and equipped the space in just 90 days. “By using certain lighting, fixtures and furnishings we’ve tried to create an environment that people see as something different,” said Fangmann, who describes the feel of the store as “Frank Lloyd Wright meets New York.”
“My vision has always been about traditional men’s clothing,” Fangmann said. “Now we have a chance to go back and do what we do best – and that is to provide personal attention and distinguished men’s wear that sets us apart in the market.”
George’s customer service includes wardrobe consulting, which is essential, Fangmann said, because “the Wall Street gray power suit is now obsolete for the social setting.” Fangmann said he still dresses men for work, but more often he provides sophisticated clothing for other occasions, not to mention his advice.
Fangmann will take half a dozen buying trips to New York, Los Angeles and Las Vegas to procure merchandise for his store this year. George’s has exclusive arrangements with several American designers and carries other luxury apparel, as well as luggage and accessories, from Europe.
Still, Fangmann admits that leaving Franklin’s behind was not an insignificant decision, as his ties to the business go back to his freshman year of college. Not long after Fangmann arrived from New Jersey to attend the University of Arizona in 1967, he was hired on at a Franklin’s location near campus. After graduation, Fangmann headed back east to work in the family business. Eventually he returned to Tucson at the request of the store owners, who made him a partner and brought him on to manage a fourth location. In 1993 the Franklin’s partnership disbanded and Fangmann formed a new corporation to keep the Williams Center location and remain the sole owner of the business, which had included investments from “several prominent local businessmen and one famous coach,” he said.
“The key to success is to know your customer,” said Fangmann, who says his clientele ranges from men ages 35 to 70 years old. Also critical is to recognize that women, who have so far accounted for approximately 40 percent of sales at George’s, are an important factor in decision making.
“Over the years, there has been a definite shift in the amount of influence women have on men’s purchases,” he said. “Wives and girlfriends want men to find their look – and believe me, it’s never where they are, because so many guys are stuck where they were. A woman looks at a man and sees his potential. And that’s where I come in. We offer a classic style with a contemporary look – away from the ’80s and into the 21st century.”