The Daily Gamecock

Long-standing Five Points store aims to keep customers at forefront of mission: 'Be nice to everybody'

<p>A sign outside of the Gentleman’s Closet reads "Bow Tie Capital of Columbia" on Jan. 30, 2024. The shop, located on Saluda Avenue in Five Points, is one of the few men’s consignment stores in Columbia, South Carolina.</p>
A sign outside of the Gentleman’s Closet reads "Bow Tie Capital of Columbia" on Jan. 30, 2024. The shop, located on Saluda Avenue in Five Points, is one of the few men’s consignment stores in Columbia, South Carolina.

When stepping through the squeaking doors of Gentleman’s Closet, customers can almost instantly recognize the classical, vintage aesthetic and historical presence it portrays through its style of work and business attire.

Gentleman's Closet has been a long-standing member of Five Points. It was first opened in the late 1980s under different ownership.

But it wasn't until the late 1990s when Owner Dean Ellison purchased the store. Ellison has worked there for 25 years after he retired as a salesman, giving him a new occupation.

Ellison had previous experience in the sales field, selling shoes at his job before purchasing Gentleman's Closet. 

"I like the shoe business," Ellison said. "I sold shoes to the people that sell the shoes. And so I decided that since I was bored, a thing to do would be to get into some business, and this was available, so I bought it."

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An assortment of ties hang on display inside the Gentleman's Closet consignment shop in Five Points on Jan. 30, 2024. The shop sources many of its ties from other men’s clothing stores that are replacing out-of-season clothes.

Customer service has always been central to Ellison and the rest of his employees. 

Ellison said he and the rest of the staff aim to be nice to everybody that walks in the store, and are glad to see them and anyone else they bring through the doors.

"We try to make the customer feel at home, and we try to work with them to fit their clothes properly so they won't have to go out and find somebody else to do it. We have two women that do our alterations, and that's a big help to us," Ellison said. 

Ellison said he and the two alterers can fix pants the same day, while much of its competition tells customers to pick up their pants in a week or more.

Ellison negotiates with other local clothing stores to help bring higher quality items to Gentleman's Closet, he said.

"The better clothing stores in town do send us their shoes and clothing that they don't need anymore," Ellison said. "And we work with them also, so we try to be friendly with all of them, and we have been very successful in that."

But his employees, such as Beth Houck, are what has kept the shop to continue in its success, he said.

"We are making the customers happy. And was have lately, since (Houck) has came on, we've had much more success because she's done such a wonderful job," Ellison said.

Houck wanted to pursue a different career after retiring from her previous job as an elemntary school teacher. As a family friend of Ellison, she ended up at Gentleman's closet.

Houck plays a central role in the shop, keeping it as organized and professional as possible by cleaning, and taking care of customer needs by taking phone calls. 

Professional attire is most commonly seen as a necessity among youth in the area. But it can also be essential for local business-minded people or local workers in the area, she said. 

"With college kids, a lot the goal is to move out, get into the real world, and when you're getting ready for interviews or anything like that, a suit is needed," Houck said. We also work with a lot of local business people (who) come in here because they know that we get high-quality consignment."

The shop's customer base primarily comes through word-of-mouth, Houck said. She and Ellison also get customers who will eat at restaurants in the area and then stop by to shop for specific items such as shoes or a suit, even sitting and talking with the staff on occasion, Houck said.

Melvin L. Jacobs, a sales associate and long-time customer, said they receive customers from all around South Carolina, thanks to online reviews of the place. 

"When you go to reviews, a lot of people state in the reviews of how customer service is," Jacobs said. "And since I started working here, that is my priority, is to give quality customer service to my customers."

Jacobs said he's developed relationships with many of the customers during his time with the store, adapting to their needs to get to know the clothing they are looking for.

At Gentleman's Closet, many of the customers are locals that are new to the shop, but also some that have been coming for a long period of time, making them recognizable and friendly to the staff, Houck said.

Ellison said he thinks new and returning customers come back to the shop due to the principles that Ellison has set for his store.

"Be nice to everybody that walks in that door. (I'm) glad to see them. They're friends, customers,” Ellison said. “I guess that we just love everybody.”

Gentleman's Closet is located on 717 Saluda Ave., and is open Monday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Editor's note: A previous version of this article misidentified the year Gentleman's Closet opened. The article has been updated to correct this mistake.