A couple of entrepreneurs with Virginia roots are bringing their custom-tailoring men’s clothing business, Alton Lane, to Richmond.
Co-founders and co-owners C. Peyton Jenkins and Colin Hunter will open their fifth showroom at 304 Libbie Ave. just north of Grove Avenue in Richmond’s West End. The store opens Feb. 14.
Alton Lane’s four other locations are in Boston, New York, Washington and Dallas.
The upscale clothing company takes a distinctive approach to sales, explained Jenkins, a 2000 Collegiate School alum and a 2004 University of Virginia graduate with a bachelor’s degree in economics.
Alton Lane serves one customer at a time — literally.
A prospective shopper makes an appointment, and unless he elects to bring a friend to shop at the same time, he’ll be the only customer at the 2,300-square-foot store.
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He can bring a significant other to share in the buying decisions, of course, but there won’t be any walk-in shopping while he’s there.
“If we get someone coming to our door when a customer is in the middle of an appointment,” said Jenkins, who grew up in Henrico County, “we’ll let the visitor know how he can make an appointment, or we can get out the calendar and book a time.”
Hunter, the company’s CEO, is from Charlottesville. He became Jenkins’ friend when they were both at U.Va. Hunter also is a 2004 U.Va. graduate, in pre-med and religious studies.
“We want all our customers to feel that Alton Lane is more like a home than a store,” Hunter said. “We don’t want a customer to feel rushed.”
As Jenkins put it: “Every customer gets a red-carpet experience.”
The store features a bar, comfortable furniture and big-screen TVs. There’s a wedding-wear room. If you go, ask about the hidden room with the poker table. There are a couple of hunting trophies — family heirlooms — hanging on the walls.
“It’s a return to how business used to be,” Hunter said.
He recalled his own family’s trips to Maine when he was a boy and visits to a small hardware store there. “They knew our names,” he said. “They knew our dog’s name. It was a friendly place that made for loyalty on our part.”
Alton Lane’s store here — like the other four — won’t sell clothes from the rack. A customer can check out sample goods for style, color, material and other details, but the clothes are custom made.
With a wide range of fabric options from mills in the United Kingdom, France and Italy, the suits are made in Asia and range in price from $595 to $20,000.
Jenkins noted that Alton Lane’s no-inventory model helps keep costs down. “That $20,000 suit might cost you $30,000 or $40,000 elsewhere.”
“We want to be the company that sells you the highest value suit at whatever your price point is,” he said.
Besides suits, the company sells tuxedos, shirts, blazers, trousers, overcoats, ties and suit-pocket handkerchiefs.
Jenkins said the company, which first opened in New York in late 2009, plans to have 10 showrooms by the end of 2014, with Chicago and San Francisco next in line and southern markets including Savannah, Ga., and Charlotte, N.C., under consideration.
Customers can begin making appointments for the Richmond store now in one of three ways, Jenkins said. They can access the online appointment calendar at www.altonlane.com/showrooms-Richmond, email email@example.com or call (646) 896-1212.
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