Shelley Bloom sells many of the same conservative-style suits as when his store opened 50 years ago.
If anything has changed, it’s his clientele. He said his customers have included the “Miami Beach crowd in the ’60s,” and South American drug traffickers in the ’80s and ’90s, but “nowadays it’s more Haitian-American.”
And Bloom, whose father ran the store before him, has found new ways to reach his changing audience.
Nowadays, he can be heard six days a week on Haitian-oriented AM radio programs that he sponsors. When he chats with the host, it sounds like a conversation between two old friends.
“Shelley, you know if I did not believe in you, I would not have you on my show,” the host Jean Jean Armand said during one of Bloom’s regular paid time slots. “I’m not a Haitian that promotes any jackass at the expense of my people.”
Bloom’s father, Nathan Bloom moved the family to Miami from Brooklyn in the early 1960s. In 1964, they opened the store at 2650 NW Fifth Ave., in what is now Miami’s Wynwood neighborhood.
The neighborhood then was then called the garment district or fashion district, and it seemed every man walked around Miami wearing a suit.
“If you were a businessman or an attorney, you drove to work in formal fashion,” said Paul George, a history professor at Miami-Dade College.
George said the TV show Mad Men is accurate in its representation of the fashion of the ’60s.
“The show is very faithful to the culture of the period,” George said.
The Blooms used their contacts in New York to compete on price by buying leftover suits at pennies on the dollar and passing some of the savings on to customers. He sells brands like Canali, Georgio Armani, Zegna, Matarazzi, Tosi and Baroni.
George said this approach was widely used in the garment district back in the 1960s. He said the district took off because there were a lot of skilled seamstresses who came from Cuba who needed employment.
“The suit business in those years was fantastic,” Bloom said.
Bloom, 76, said he joined his father in 1969 and brought in his sister to help in 1974.
Linda Bloom runs Shelley Bloom’s Men’s Fashion Clothiers from the morning until the afternoon when Shelley takes over.
George said that informality in fashion and overall appearance grew as the ’60s ended, making it hard on haberdashers.
Shelley Bloom said the men’s suit business has seen tough times throughout the last half century — large, well-known suit designers and retailers have either gone out of business or left the Miami area — but his family shop is still the same and has been thriving in recent years.
Maybe not quite the same.
Three years ago he began to concentrate on suit packages, which Bloom said has been the key to their continued success.
Customers can buy one package that includes 20 different pieces for $299. A package comes with three suits, dress shirts, ties, matching hankies, socks and travel bags. Three wool suits, which each sell for up to $550 at other places, can be bought at Bloom’s for $749 in total.
“We’re selling more than we can keep in the store,” Bloom said, adding that he sells up to 5,000 suits a year this way.
Bloom said he has had many celebrity customers over the years.
VIPs have included former Haitian President Leslie Manigat, former WPLG news anchor Dwight Lauderdale and Sun Sports’ court-side reporter for Miami Heat telecasts, Jason Jackson.
Plenty of professional athletes have gone to his store as well, such as former University of Miami football player Devin Hester, and Miami Dolphins players including Troy Stradford, Mark Clayton and Mark Duper.
“By and large, you’re going to get a little bit of everybody,” Bloom said.
He said what he learned, from his father and from doing business is that good value trumps all.
“My father taught me to be honest and give the best value,” Bloom said. “If you give a good value, you’ll get a good value customer that will stay with you.”