After running an acclaimed womenswear store in Charlotte, N.C. for nearly two decades, retailer Laura Vinroot Poole decided to add a men’s shop this past spring. Called Tabor, the multibrand shop, which also features an onsite book café and art gallery, is located in a 2,000-sq.-foot restored 1920s bungalow that was a bachelor pad throughout the 20th century. Poole believes that “a little of that energy prevails” in the space. She recently shared why she decided to sell to men, how doing so differs from selling to women and why her product mix makes Tabor a must-visit when in Charlotte.
Why did you decide to open a store just for guys? And why now?
We’ve had our women’s stores for 18 years and have been constantly prodded by our clients and their husbands to open a men’s store but the market didn’t seem quite ready until now. Collaborating with our friend, Chandra Johnson, (owner of the adjoining SOCO Gallery) who shared a vision of importing new ideas to the South confirmed that the timing was right.
What is the overriding aesthetic or theme of the product for sale?
We focus on American sportswear…whether it is an American brand or American in inspiration. From classics like Alexander Olch ties, heritage jeans from Levi’s Icon Collection and Jack Purcell Signature sneakers to Daiki Suzuki’s Engineered Garments, tee shirts from Merz b. Schwanen and Dries Van Noten.
What is the theme of the store’s interior?
My architect husband, Perry Poole, who is moonlighting as creative director of Tabor, designed the space to be open and light in sharp contrast to what seems to be the norm for men’s shops. We have no dark corners or overstuffed leather club chairs here.
What are your bestselling (and/or personal favorite) items and brands at Tabor?
We love Schott leather jackets, Thom Browne, hand dip-dyed cashmere sweaters from The Elder Statesman, Mark McNairy’s shoes and boots and anything from Engineered Garments. We also have a pretty brisk Aesop and Santa Maria Novella apothecary business.
What have you learned thus far about selling menswear as opposed to womenswear? And what do you like and/or dislike about it?
Wow…it is a completely different business…the wholesale AND retail side of it and I still have so much to learn! The men’s business is much more relaxed and doesn’t take itself too seriously. The lack of drama has been such a welcome change that sometimes I worry that I’ll never go back to the women’s side! One of the challenges is that men don’t seem to social shop in the same way that women do and certainly not as often…you really have to work the small windows of their time that they give you. It’s also been funny to see how many of my women’s clients love to shop in the men’s store (for themselves.)
How do you find new brands for the store?
Everywhere…blogs, media outlets, friends, other designers…It’s interesting how much the women’s and men’s businesses are intersecting. I’m a naturally curious person and love learning about new designers and my job is to figure out which ones are relevant to our clients.
What is the price range of the merchandise you stock?
$250 – $2500.
Does Tabor have a typical customer? If so, who is he?
I don’t think so…they are bankers and athletes and creative men of all ages, but their common thread is that they are open and interested in learning about new designers and how to incorporate them into their wardrobes.
What is your overall fashion advice for guys? And specifically for fall 2015?
Find a great tailor and make sure your clothes fit well. Invest in quality fabrics with great construction and don’t wear cheap shoes. For fall 2015, invest in a grown-up tailored raincoat….not a frat guy hiking jacket, but a proper waxed canvas jacket or coat. You’ll go from Beta Theta Pi to Boss Man in an instant!
What is the men’s fashion scene like in Charlotte?
It’s growing. We are no longer strictly a banking city and men are slowly stepping out of their conservative suits and khakis. The men here are very well-traveled, so I think they are much more open to new things they’ve seen but not yet tried. We have amazing stylists who can help navigate new pieces, and maybe more importantly, tell you what to get rid of in your wardrobe.
What special services does the store offer?
We do anything and everything for our clients. We help them edit their closets and curate a new wardrobe, we help them to design personal stationery, we do in-store alterations…there is no limit. Service has always been the most important part of our women’s stores because in a world where you can buy anything anywhere at any time, service is the thing that changes everything. We’ve loved bringing that ideal to the men’s business and the men freak out at the high level of service.
Who would be your dream customer?
Why should one visit Tabor should he be in Charlotte?
Where else can you buy a Thom Browne suit, Trickers boots, a Will Adler surf photo, a Mexican cookbook and a first pressing of Exile on Main St. in one beautiful space? Please come visit soon…we’d love to have you!