In 1939, Harry Slesinger and Larry Morris opened in the Union Trust Building, Downtown, a 1,000-square-foot, single-level storefront that specialized in fine men's clothes.
Slesinger's background was in clothing manufacturing and operations while Morris had been a salesperson. They called their store Larrimor's -- a contraction of "Larry" and "Morris" -- because his name was the more recognized of the pair in Pittsburgh's retail scene.
These community connections, coupled with quality crafted menswear, helped the store take root and cultivate a following.
This year marks Larrimor's 75th anniversary. During that time, it's witnessed a lot of changes, including a Downtown retail landscape that's ebbed and flowed. The store itself has changed some, too. In its early years, inventory was limited to a single suit style during World War II, when pant cuffs were prohibited because of rations on fabrics. By the 1970s, it began growing its women's department.
It's had three generations of family members at the helm, and after 70 years in the Union Trust Building moved closer to the end of Fifth Avenue (near Market Square) to One PNC Plaza in 2010. It also opened a second location in the early 1990s at The Galleria in Mt. Lebanon, which remained there for more than 20 years. But what hasn't wavered: the store's commitment to community and quality.
"It's an accomplishment," Lisa Slesinger says about the diamond anniversary. She joined the business in 1997 with Tom Michael. Her father, Carl Slesinger, led Larrimor's for three decades. Luck and lots of hard work also helped along the way, she says.
"My father started working in the business while he was in college at Pitt sweeping the floors. Growing up my mother worked in the business, and I was always surrounded by people who worked hard."
Like the founding owners, Ms. Slesinger and Mr. Michael's professional experiences complement one another well and prepared them to lead Larrimor's. She took part in Macy's training program and had been a product manager for Talbots, and Mr. Michael previously worked in finance. They also were married to each other; now they're business partners with a shared goal of helping Larrimor's -- and its clients -- look the best.
"When was the last time your clothes made you feel invincible?" was the tagline on one of Mr. Michael's favorite advertisements for Larrimor's. It pictured a young boy running across the beach, arms outstretched, with a towel around his neck.
"That's what we're trying to do," he says. "We've expanded upon that, and we have gone out and supported the community and taken care of our customers, and that's probably how we lasted 75 years."
Stocking collections that are top of the line -- and often times exclusive in Pittsburgh to Larrimor's -- is key to attracting shoppers, as well as to keeping clients coming back. Ms. Slesinger also attempts to pick pieces that might appeal to multiple generations.
"I look for things that I believe my clients don't already have," she says. "It has to be new, and it has to be compelling in some way."
Recently Larrimor's started carrying Marchesa Voyage, the new sportswear line by the designers of the Marchesa couture gown collection, and Diane von Furstenberg as a way to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the designer's iconic wrap dress. The store also has expanded its contemporary menswear offerings in recent years with such lines as Hugo Boss and Vince.
One-on-one service is another hallmark of the Larrimor's experience, with several members of the sales staff working there for decades.
"We know a lot about our clients and their families and what they like," Ms. Slesinger says.
Clients have access to Larrimor's tailoring shop, as well as a number of other services including home delivery, closet cleaning and even creating photo books for people with color blindness that show which items go best with other pieces in their wardrobe.
"I think the biggest compliment is the generations of families we've [served]," Mr. Michael says.
A blossoming Downtown residential scene, along with Larrimor's close proximity to the Fairmont Pittsburgh hotel and Market Square, has brought many new faces through its doors.
At the old location, Saturdays used to be a day for catching up on tasks because foot traffic was slow, Ms. Slesinger says.
"Not anymore. Saturday is a lot of fun" with a steady stream of shoppers stopping by while in town for a sporting or cultural event, dining in Market Square or staying at a nearby hotel.
Mr. Michael and Ms. Slesinger also attribute the store's longevity to Pittsburgh's support and strive to show their gratitude by regularly contributing to local events, other organizations and charities.
This spirit of community kinship along with more hard work and perhaps a dash of luck is what they hope will keep Larrimor's around for more anniversaries to come.
"I just try to do better every day," Ms. Slesinger says. "Just a little bit better every day."
For more from PG style editor Sara Bauknecht, check out the PG's Stylebook blog at www.post-gazette.com/stylebook. Follow her on Twitter @SaraB_PG.
First Published April 6, 2014 12:00 AM