B.J. Stringham: Tailoring the future of a family business
B.J. Stringham specializes in first impressions. As the fifth-generation president of Utah Woolen Mills, Stringham sells men’s and women’s fashions that, he says, provide distinction and elegance. And with impeccable customer service and a flair for audacious style, Stringham is working to create a new first impression for a family business that has been around for over a century.
“I know the perception of many people is that this is an old person’s store,” he says. “People think they know us. But if they haven’t been in our store in the last five or 10 years, they don’t know us. We’re leaders in men’s fashion.”
Started in 1905, Utah Woolen Mills has faced its share of challenges. Wars, economic turmoil, competition, the internet and downtown construction—the shop has endured it all and is stronger than ever. The biggest obstacle Utah Woolen Mills faces is establishing an identity of youth and energy, but Stringham and his brother/CFO, Brandon, who are in their 30s, have made their shop trendy.
The Stringham brothers travel to New York and Italy to track down the hippest styles and colors for suits, shirts, shoes and sport coats. Stringham says Utah Woolen Mills offers high-end, quality clothing that can’t be found anywhere else in the state, or even in the Intermountain region, with big-name brands like Ermenegildo Zegna, Canali, Eton, Robert Talbott and Scarpe Di Bianco.
Tailoring is key to a modern look; Stringham says every man should own a tailored shirt and sport coat. He’s watched a well-fitted suit change the way a man walks, talks and engages with the world around him. “Men are very much aware of how they look. When you get them to try something on that truly fits them, it just clicks. It’s not about the clothing. It’s about empowering the people who wear it.”
As online shopping sites continue to expand, Stringham has doubled down on the shop’s brick-and-mortar location at City Creek in downtown Salt Lake. Stringham is convinced his customers want the benefit of shopping at a store where they get an incomparable experience.
“Customers want the personal touch, the exceptional service and the unprecedented selection,” he says. “We offer things that can’t be bought online.”
In early 2017, the Stringhams created the Suited for Good program. For every suit they sell, they donate a tailored suit to someone trying to get their life back on track. More than 200 people have been fitted with quality clothing to give them an extra boost of confidence for job interviews.
The Suited for Good program is just one way that Stringham is trying make his mark in the legacy of the family business. He knows he’s standing on the shoulders of great people who paved the way and considers it his duty to respect that history. He also looks to the future as he brings fashion-forward concepts to his devoted customers.
“We’re buying what we would like to wear and what we think is cool. People are blown away by the brands we carry, and with custom tailoring we offer a unique experience,” he says. “We’re not waiting for life to happen to us, we’re forging ahead.”