Dec 27, 2018 12:05PM
By Charlie Rossi
Charlie Rossi, 74
Growing up in St. Louis during the 1950s and early 1960s, I lived in a neighborhood with friends whose major interests were sports and clothes. The area was barely middle-class, yet my friends and I aspired to own clothes with upscale labels, such as shirts from Gant and Hathaway, sweaters from Pringle of Scotland, and Weejuns (penny loafers) from G.H. Bass & Co. Little did I know my affinity for designer-name clothes would have such a profound impact on my life.
My first significant retail position was on the sales staff of the St. Louis Neiman Marcus store, which opened in 1974. Some salient advice I received while working there was, “If you own a store, it should have a focus and not try to be all things to all people.” This philosophy has guided me during my entire career.
I have always been a big fan of the old movie stars of the 1930s, ’40s, and ’50s, such as Gary Cooper, Fred Astaire, and Clark Gable. They each had a personal yet timeless style. When Ralph Lauren reinterpreted this manner of dress for the modern man, I was inspired to adopt a classic aesthetic for my store.
Marriage brought me to Omaha in 1977. I resumed my retail career here at Ben Simons at Westroads after seeking out stores that carried Polo by Ralph Lauren and discovering this was the only local store carrying the brand at that time. Not long after starting there, I was introduced to the gentleman who represented Polo Clothing Co. in this area. He suggested to the men’s clothing buyer that he take me to New York to assist in the selection of Polo merchandise for Ben Simons. I left Ben Simons in March 1978 to help open Suttons in Regency Fashion Court, placing primary emphasis on the Polo label. My association there lasted 12 ½ years.
My dream of owning my own store came to fruition when I opened Rossi Clothiers in July 1991. I have no intention of retiring. As my son once said to a friend, “My pop has never had a job in his life, because he goes to his hobby every day.” I have been fortunate to have good health, which I mostly attribute to genetics, but doing something you have a passion for sure helps. Family and friends also give meaning to your life. I have close friends I have known for over 50 years. My customers are not just my customers, they are also my friends. After all, I have known some of them for close to 40 years. Finally, I am so proud of my three children and selfishly hope to live a long time so I can spend it with my five phenomenal grandchildren.
This article first appeared in the January/February 2019 edition of 60PLUS in Omaha Magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.