Craftsmanship is the crisp clean line of seam on a white or Oxford blue shirt, and an appreciation of craft is a rejection of things like the same shirt made in China and sold by a dozen retailers. It’s also what Tony Mancino spent 35 years working to proffer. One of the pleasures of visiting his Larchmont shop is hearing him talk, in his rapid Italian-accented English, about how a garment is made, or watching him work out a problem with a pattern. A master tailor, he has always been closely involved in the design and altering process at Mancino’s, an eponymous shop he opened 25 years ago, after he moved to Weschester from the Midwest.
A loan from Community Capital NY helped him expand his premises and tailor his inventory—in addition to elegant custom apparel, he also offers ready-made silk ties, leather shoes, suits, shirts and leather jackets, carrying brands like Canali, Hickey Freeman, Bruno Magli and AG. “I grew little by little,” he explains, “paying $850 a month in rent in the beginning. Now I’m paying $4000 in rent, but I’m doing 30 times the business–$1.3 million for 800 square feet isn’t bad.”
How did your business evolve?
Larchmont is a small community, and this community wants us to be here. Initially I made made-to-measure shirts and suits for hard-to-fit people, the misproportioned, and the people who wanted custom fabrics. That’s my specialty. I’m not just a salesman, I have a skill. I can make $500 a day just doing alterations, strictly labor. But I realized that I needed to stock ready-made clothes, so that if a woman came in to pick up her husband’s suit, she could look and see something to buy to go with it, a tie, shoes, cuff links, more shirts, as well as something for herself. We added beautiful clothes from Italy to improve cash flow, and took over the shop next door to display it beautifully.
What was your biggest problem?
Cash flow. I buy threads and fabric, paying COD, and still need to keep the lights on, rents paid, and pay employees. If I don’t have the extra cash, it’s a problem and it’s not easy to get a loan on your receivables.
What’s the best advice you got along the way?
To follow my instincts and offer ready-made, high end items, gifts, and impulse buys like ties and shirts. I have nice $2500 suits for the guys that want the best—like the CEO of Greygoose Vodka– and I carry $400 suits for the barber who needs a 44 short to wear for his son’s bar mitzvah. I embrace everybody.
When did you know you’d arrived?
It was not about money, more about community. My wife worked at the High School, and it was wonderful fixing all the prom dresses and doing all the tuxedo rentals. I coached two soccer teams. Now we do the wedding rentals for the kids we watched grow up. I keep all their measurements on file.
What’s your advice?
You have to feel the community, get a sense of how traditional they are, what the dress code is, for everyday, for work, what they have to wear in their jobs. You have to know what merchandise to carry. I joined the local country club and watched the membership change to the new guard, from Wall Street bankers to young hedge fund guys and heads of technology companies. These young guys are making it, but they spend it differently.
I added AG jeans, shearling jackets and slimmer suits for my customers. If they buy it here, I don’t charge for alterations and they like the service. I’ll alter my inventory, but I won’t change much else. After almost 40 years, I still love being a master tailor. There is a real pleasure in making things. I find as much pleasure in watching the expression of the barber when he tries on his suit as I do tying a boy’s first bowtie and fitting his first tuxedo or altering the CEO’s third $1700 custom suit. I see their smile, their confidence, looking back at me in the mirror and I feel part of their history and part of the community.