Ken’s Man's Shop Opened Its Doors On August 1st, 1964
The 60s brought a big change in men’s clothing retailers in Dallas as Ken Helfman, with 5 years of buying and managing experience at an exclusive, specialty chain of stores, left to open his own store—Ken’s Man’s Shop in Garland at the age of 26. Ken’s store featured traditional clothing and sportswear staged in an English décor, opened on July 30, 1964 and had sales the very first day in business.
You’re probably not surprised by these facts if you know Ken. His first store offered: Cricketeer clothing, Corbin trousers, Gant and Sero shirtings, Canterbury belts, Alligator Rainwear, and of course—English Leather cologne. Ken’s clients from his specialty-chain days followed him and he drew from Lake Highlands, Jesuit, Bryan Adams, and the two high schools in Garland. Part of this was because Ken’s Man’s Shop was a young-man’s shop; part of this was that he hired and trained, 16-18 year-old, high-school and college students.
The cornerstone of Ken’s Man’s Shop then—and today—is the high quality of the personalized service afforded each member of Ken’s clients—clients he considers his extended family. With a keen eye for detail, an infectious wit, and a gift for training, Ken helped his hires become accomplished salespeople for their own as well as other age groups—including the wives who also frequented the shop buying for their husbands.
Then in 1968, the other side of his shopping center was being developed and he was asked if he wanted to become the center’s anchor store. So a short, 4 years after opening his first shop, the second Ken’s Man’s Shop opened—in August of 1968—in the same center.
As this cast grew, so did Ken’s family of clientele: Coach Landry, and others from the front office of the Dallas Cowboys, began to be seen at and wearing outfits from Ken’s Man’s Shop. In fact, Roger Staubach, fresh out of the U.S. Navy in 1969, bought his first suit at Ken’s. It wasn’t long before the Dallas Cowboys were seen shopping at Ken’s.
As new vendors and designers emerged, Ken’s Man’s Shop started to change its look—more European—and it’s lines—more contemporary. The store offered: Pierre Cardin, Yves Saint Laurant, Roland Melodandri, Hardy Amies, Oleg Cassini, Geoffrey Beane, Tiger of Sweden, Contefiel of Spain, Nik-Nik, Roland, Gleneagles, Delton, Gino Paoli, and many others made up his “star-studded cast.”
Dallas Cowboys and Playboy Playmates
Ken had and has a knack of “doing things right” as well as “doing the right things.” He chose to advertise in the local newspapers as well as on radio and television. And probably because of his close relationship with the Dallas Cowboys, Ken’s Man’s Shop was chosen to sponsor a Dallas Cowboys’ award—the Ken’s Man’s Big Play Award. The store awarded a suit or sport coat of their choice to the defensive or the offensive player who made the most significant game play—as chosen by the late Doug Todd and Ken. The award and recipient was announced at each home game and in the newspapers; it continued to be a cornerstone of Ken’s relationship with the Dallas Cowboys until 1982 when Bum Bright bought the franchise.
But this was the 70s and you likely remember the popularity of Hugh Hefner, Playboy Magazine, and the Playmates? Well, so did Ken’s Man’s Shop and his clients—for one month the store flew in the Playmate of the Month from Chicago for an all-day appearance. The legendary, Dallas Radio DJ Ron Chapman did a live interview. Men—some clients and some not—came to meet her, get their copy of Playboy magazine autographed, and have their picture taken with her.
Ken’s Celebrates It’s 20th Anniversary in 1984
And as Ken’s cast evolved and as his clientele diversified, so did the promotional approach he chose.
To celebrate Ken’s Man’s Shop’s 20th anniversary, the first major party was held at the store in 1984. All past and present sales people, vendors, customers, and the press made the list—and the scene—and made this event a resounding success.
As the 90s unfolded, with the demographics in Garland beginning to shift—Ken had to put a new strategy in place. Simply, it came down to a choice—close or relocate the store. And as has so often been the case, Ken began discussing his situation with his clients—his friends.
It was that Ken made an appointment to meet his hero—Stanley Marcus—his most respected retailer—at his office at the Crescent Hotel in Dallas. Ken’s life was changed by this experience for two reasons: first, Ken remarked that if he’d been born a Catholic, he would have thought he was visiting the Pope—not Stanley Marcus; and second, Mr. Marcus’ vision, knowledge, suggestion, and visit a week later made Ken’s decision easy.
Thus, the decision was made—move Ken’s Man’s Shop once again but this time to a more, up-scale retail location—Highland Park Village or Preston Royal Shopping Center, owned by Henry S. Miller, were the preferred locations. So in February 1993, after 29 years, Ken’s Man’s Shop closed in Garland and opened in Dallas where it is today—in the Preston Royal Shopping Center. Ken often laments: “We outlasted Gunsmoke in Garland.”
This “new” opening of Ken’s Man’s Shop also brought a new cast of characters: Pal Zileri, Lubium, Aquascutum, Versace, Ferre, Lazo, Jhane Barnes, Bill Kaiserman, and To Boot—to name only a few. Now with a more-exclusive address, a north and a south entrance, and 3,200 square feet to work with, Ken continued to “shuffle his deck of cards” in order to offer the best mix for his customers. He brought in antiques he had collected the past three decades to complement the shop’s décor and ambiance. He added a full tailor shop—on premise—staffed with Dallas’ best tailor as the “coup d’etat.”
Then in 1994, Ken’s son—Kory—joined him. In one change, Ken’s Man’s Shop’s customers gained again as two Helfman generations served, side-by-side, the multi-generational customers at Ken’s. That same year, at Kory’s suggestion, Ken began supporting a series of designer, trunk-show, and charity events. Ken, a volunteer for the Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children since the late `70s, began an annual book and toy drive—now a Dallas tradition during the holiday season at Ken’s Man’s Shop starting at Thanksgiving and ending at Christmas.
Jhane Barnes, a celebrity cast member in her own right, graced Ken’s Man’s Shop doors at a private press party held on a Friday night and an all-day, meet-and-greet with Ken’s customers the next day; she has participated in two additional parties since. Events like this, word-of-mouth marketing, and second-(&-third-) generation clients as well as great-looking threads and hand’s-on, personalized service have put Ken’s Man’s Shop on the map—and keep it on the map—in Dallas, regionally, and even nationally.
Leaving a Legacy
In 1999, Ken’s Man’s Shop celebrated it’s 35th year in business. A catalogue of unique, one-of-a-kind items was developed and sent to clients. It included store merchandise, wines, gifts of food-and-drink, autographed footballs, a hat autographed by Tom Landry, Super Bowl XXXIV tickets and hotel reservations, and a host of other very unique offerings. This event and its silent auction were done to support two charities near-and-dear to Ken’s heart: the Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children and a high-school scholarship established in honor of his first employee who lost his life to mental illness. All totaled, $90,000 was raised for these two charities.
However, events were not the only way Ken made contributions to his favored charities: For instance: proceeds for years from the sale of the Audrey Buckner, all-silk, “Rite Tie”—featuring the Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children’s colorful logos of crayola—that retailed at $85 each. All of these “Rite Ties” were sold and proceeds given the TSRHC.
And as 2000 rang in, Ken’s Man’s Shop had become one of the top specialty stores in the southwest—and some would say nationally. The keystone to Ken’s Man’s Shop’s on-going success—and popularity—has to lie in their unique ability to “clothe relationships and generations” today as they have been doing for decades. Customers, many who have brought their sons and even their grandsons to the shop, are like family to Ken, Kory, and the staff.
Since 1964, Ken’s Man’s Shop continues to execute on our philosophy of style and grace. For instance: if you’re an out-of-town client, Ken’s will professionally package your purchases and ship them to the location of your choosing. Of if you’re a color-challenged customer, Ken’s will provide you photos of your different outfits so you have a constant reminder or reinforcement at hand whether at home or on a business trip.
The love that Ken’s provides is it’s attention to detail. From the clothing, the selections, to the service. It’s the small details that assist in enriching our relationships with our clientele season after season.
Kory continues in the same regard as his father in searching for items, emerging brands, new styles, and always better ways to have quality and sustainability from our private labels. To do so, he travels, chats, and meets with many seasoned veterans of the industry to young entrepreneurs wishing to break into the business.
In August of 2018 Kory began a complete transformation of Ken’s, which included a remodel of the store! Kory knew that the goal of any aging business is to continue to be innovative, evolve, and remain current while maintaining the realm of its DNA. With this in mind, the Ken’s team set out to create a new and modern space to better serve our customers.
The popularity of the TV show “Married at First Sight,” which highlighted Ken’s, placed us on the formal wear Dallas wedding circuit. The loyal clients at Ken’s have known that we love weddings and take pride in being behind the scenes while there. The expansion of the phases included brining in more formal wear than before, plus our rental shop for groomsmen, formal occasions, and even home comings! (Get set, because we will be promoted on another TV show in the Fall of 2022!)
The new Ken’s was going to be done over multiple phases over the next two years to enhance the design, better visualize the ongoing assortment of fashion, and create an ambiance for the clients to make themselves more at home. Just like a house being remodeled and delayed by unforeseen circumstances, this too, happened to Ken’s.
On October 20th we had our new carpet installed. That very night an F3 tornado ripped through 17 miles of Dallas. Bless-fully, not one death in our city. Yet narrowly missing Ken’s and our north side center we were lucky but still affected by the destruction. Windows, roof, AC/Heat, and structural damage occurred. Yet, Ken’s was able to get its doors and shop back open within 2 weeks.
Covid-19 began to surface in March of 2020, and by April we were asked to shut down operations for an unforeseeable future. While we did, we asked our clientele what they needed from us while they too were at home. Ken’s began its “home delivery service” during Covid. Getting our clients not only in lounge wear, but in zoom attire, and more comfortable “work from home” attire was extremely important to us and the survival of the shop.
The team at Ken’s understands that the age of immediate information and constant access to technology can outpace us, so we decided to join in lieu of fighting. Every Ken’s haberdasher is available by text, e-mail, and social media. We go where our clients wish for us to be. We serve better, and faster than the click of a mouse. By contacting us we guarantee less returns, happier experiences, and genuine pleasure when the items are received in the Ken’s special boxes.
We update our generations of clientele through Facebook, Instagram, Linked In, weekly emails, and even text messages if requested. Though each of the haberdashers love to chat by phone!
This is our 6th generation of websites since 1995. The difference in this one will be our offering of “online shopping” beginning in November of 2021, and our custom online shop beginning in late Spring of 2022!
Ken’s custom department has also expanded, and it will not take up any more square footage within the store. Every single section of Ken’s is now available to use as a custom selection. We know there are men who need specialized sizing, creative design, or a more robust selection of fabrics. The difference of a custom piece designed exclusively for the man’s body is an experience that every individual should attempt.
One of our personal favorite areas is our “custom cologne / parfum experience. One can book a personalized one hour experience for themselves, others, or as a couple! These bottles are filled with our Parisian authentic oils. We carefully move through the process of the bases and accords to find that something special for the wearer to don for either a daytime or evening unique aroma. To date we have poured hundreds of these! We even have one at the front desk called “Alfred”, named after Kory’s maternal grandfather. When this is selected at the shops front counter we hand pour a new one, except you get to name it!
Ken’s loves to support its community in which we live, thrive, and shop. We do so through various philanthropic programs like The Bill Hunt Scholarship, the annual Toy and Book Drive, American Heart Association Cote du Coeur, Black Tie, Chrystal Charity Ball, TSRH, and giving to various charities, schools, and religious organizations. One of our most recent was formed when the ice storms of March 2021 hit our city.
Too many in need families during this time were affected, including The North Texas Food Bank. Kory and a couple of the independent tenants in Preston Royal (including Chamberlain Studios of Self Defense) came together to form the Preston Royal Pedal. A charity bike ride supporting NTFB. This will be an annual event in PRV beginning in April 2022!
Ken’s Man’s Shop continues to pride itself on customer satisfaction, business and personal relationships, true connections, local charitable contributions, and bringing style to each and every man who graces our store.