Dressing men at Haberdash Outfitters: New store opened during challenging times to offer menswear and more

Planning to start a new business takes time, but opening a business during a pandemic takes special motivation.

Jennifer Recker has just that. In November, she launched Haberdash Outfitters Co. in Dyersville, Iowa, a retail store offering apparel for men.

“Inspiration is all around us,” said Recker, the store’s owner, when speaking about her vision. “I looked at what I felt the Dyersville area was lacking and put it into motion.”

It’s been some time since that community had a men’s store. But Recker had experience in retail operations plus a background in inside sales and customer service. She already owned J&R Fashions, which sells clothing and accessories for women and children.

She believed in the potential for expansion into menswear.

“I did a ton of research as the men’s clothing industry is way different than the women’s industry, which I am most accustomed. I had this idea in my head that I wanted to launch by 2022,” Recker said.

Her goal was to feature casual and dressy menswear, including shoes, socks, belts, ties and gifts. When a local building became available, Recker said it was the right spot and she went for it.

Located about a block from J&R Fashions, the new site needed renovations. It took about a month to complete, and Recker kept her team on a strict timeline so they could open in advance of the holiday season.

Residents and other business in Dyersville have been supportive, patronizing Haberdash Outfitters even while COVID-19 has worn on.

“I work together with other area businesses. We brainstorm and bounce ideas off each other,” Recker said. “This helps all of us see what we can change, maximize on or what is lacking and see what we can do to help with that.”

Recker’s extended family also helps out, and she credits her husband, father and uncle as incredible supporters. All contributed many hours to prepare for the opening of Haberdash, along with assistance from Recker’s employees who work at J&R Fashions.

One of those employees is sales associated Jennie Jaeger, who works at both of stores.

“The building that Haberdash Outfitters Co. is located in had previously been a bar. The original bar is still part of the store and we use it to display shoes and different accessories,” she said.

Past bar customers continue to stop by to share memories in the community, including a couple who met there and have been married for more than 30 years. Now, they are patrons of the new business.

Store staff work hard to meet the needs of customers.

“We are open to suggestions of what type of items customers would like to see in the store,” Jaeger said. “In February, we started tuxedo rental, just in time for prom and hopefully an uninterrupted wedding season.”

While hoping the pandemic will be over soon, Haberdash staff continue to adjust. They offer a variety of merchandise for sale on an online platform while striving to diversify their product line, including an expanded shoe line coming in the spring.

Yet overcoming the impact of the pandemic has impacted every aspect of the store’s operation.

At Haberdash, specific products were not available when vendors stopped opening new accounts or faced product shortages. So, the store staff started using social media to reach customers and build sales. Both Haberdash and J&R Fashions have active social media accounts.

“It has been a wild year, (but) it doesn’t feel like a job so that is always a bonus,” Jaeger said.

She continues to enjoy the variety of the work and customer interactions despite pandemic restrictions the staff face. Her responsibilities include computer work, merchandising and customer service.

In addition to Jaeger, Haberdash includes two employees who do similar tasks plus product preparation, website order processing, photography and any other needs that pop up. They take pride in being one of the few small businesses in the wider area to offer menswear.

“We offer competitive pricing and outstanding customer service,” Recker said. “If we don’t have a size that a customer needs, we are happy to try to order (that) if available.”

Even with the enthusiasm that Recker, her family and staff bring to Haberdash Outfitters, she admits the decision to open the business during a pandemic wasn’t easy.

“Not knowing what tomorrow may bring is the hardest part, along with the availability of product,” Recker said. She continues to face challenges like locating manufacturers with delivery and inventory that fits Haberdash’s brand.

Nevertheless, she looks forward to the future for both of

her store operations, admitting she has learned much about the town, its character and the building where Haberdash is located. Meeting and visiting with customers remain her favorite part of the job.