Throughout the years at Louis, I’ve seen so much. I’ve met so many incredible people and seen so many rich and exciting things. Colors and fabrics change, patterns and lines evolve, but one thing has always remained the same, and that one thing is Arthur Jordan.
Arthur has been with Louis for as long as I can remember, and as far as I’m concerned, there will never be a better sales consultant in this city. I’ve been watching him work for decades, and quite honestly, the way he works with people is from a different era. He works with respect and taste – acting as part psychologist, part comedian, and part stylist. Perhaps more importantly – part futurist, always knowing a customer wants before they even know they want it. In the eyes of the industry, THAT is a value of a salesperson. No one is as good as Arthur, and no one will ever match his talent again. It’s an art form I am admittedly sad to see end.
Arthur has always been the ultimate wardrobe sales consultant in my eyes. It’s no secret that men aren’t always completely equipped at making the best sartorial choices, and it’s for that reason that gentlemen like Arthur will always be needed and valued.
As we have been preparing to close our doors this summer, nothing has made me happier than to see Arthur’s clients come in to honor him and get a taste of his service – one last time.
There will never, ever be anyone like Arthur Jordan. He is – the quintessential Louis experience.
Now it’s my turn to honor him. I asked my friend and writer, Jamie Kohn, to meet with Arthur and learn more about his past, present and future – and here’s what he told her…
Arthur Jordan has been a part of the Louis family since September 1967. He grew up in Dorchester, and went to Dorchester High School. If you ask him where he went to college he’ll tell you, “U of MP,” the University of Murray Pearlstein.
Tell me about the “U of MP:”
Well, I say that I went to U of MP, because Murray Pearlstein was the one who really gave me my education – in business and in life. My first job in retail was at a local Dorchester shop called Mike’s. Then I headed into Boston proper to work for the National Pant Company. It was in Chinatown, on Boylston Street – right in the middle of what used to be known as The Combat Zone. During that time there were really only two great places to shop in Boston – Martini Carl…and Louis. I had been working at Martini Carl for a couple of years and one afternoon, Bob Itri (who had been at Louis for 45 years during his career) came in one day and told me Louis, Murray’s cousin, had heard about me and wanted to meet me. Now, Louis was just the best store in Boston, and I have to admit I was pretty intimidated. Bob arranged for Murray to take me around the store, and before we were finished he offered me a job. I was shaking – but I took it.
I started to work in the Berkley shop – on the third floor. It was like an upscale Brooks Brothers, but much cooler with the fit and the prices. I worked under a gentleman names Frank Nunuez who ran the shop until the early 70’s. At that time Murray was doing all of the buying, except the street level, which was Wally Horn’s haberdashery shop. Eventually Louis and Murray bought Wally out, and Murray started to buy everything.
After two to three years in the Berkley shop, Murray asked me if I would join him on his buying trips. I figured I must be doing something right. This was around the time he started traveling overseas to the European market. We started meeting with the Italians, marveling at their tailoring and fine lines, and began to bring the look to Louis. Every year, for about 20 years, we would travel to New York City, London, Paris, Milan, and Florence. Went to the shows, and showrooms, and met with every famous designer you can think of: Pierre Cardin, Gianfranco Ferré, Gianni Versace, etc., etc. We were hooked up with the best of the best.
It was fascinating, and quite a ride to be with Murray. He was a fiery man who knew what he wanted. He had a vision, and he had a passion that was just incredible. It was contagious, and I captured all I knew from him.
I traveled and bought with Murray for a very long time before Debi came into the business and continued to evolve the store. I was happy to become the Vice President of Sales and Merchandising, and my passion for the business never changed. There is no place like Louis. I never looked back.
From the concept shop “DOWN with Louis,” to the two locations we had at one time in Faneuil Hall, to the shops in Cambridge and Chestnut Hill, to our home of 20 years at the old Bonwit Teller building, which is now only known as “the old Louis building,” it’s been an incredible life in fashion.
What did you think of our move to the Fan Pier?
The move was characteristic of the Pearlstein family. Murray had tremendous strength and insight, and Debi is the same way. I think that’s been the bottom line of the success of Louis. She and her father took all the heat this town could throw at them, but they were both leaders and always made dynamic choices. I traveled with Murray for many years and got to know him very well. I feel like I know Debi well too, and understand her choices because she wouldn’t have it any other way. She is direct and I will always have an incredible respect for her and all that she has accomplished. I know a lot of people gave her a hard time for moving, but she hung in there – she changed the way she was buying and kept thing moving forward. It was interesting, and quite rewarding, to see the people who doubted the move eventually come out of their comfort zone of Newbury Street to see what we were doing on the waterfront. One after the other, people would walk into the store and it was as if a lightbulb went on over their head, and they finally got what this evolution was all about. The evolution of Louis is what’s kept it alive. Business has been great to this very day, and it will be good to go out on a very high note.
It’s been a great run of 85 years, and I have 47 in.
Looking back, what really made Louis special for you?
Special? Louis has always been special in so many ways, but the thing that stands out to me the most is the dedication both Debi and her father had for always wanting to have the best store in the world – and to merchandise it the way no others do. Instead of trying to have what everyone else has, Louis has always had what Louis had – its own looks and styles. And to this day, the same holds true, and it’s why so many customers continue to love this place I’ve called home for so long. I enjoy having customers from all over the country and all over the world, and I appreciate that while they come to Boston for so many things (education, banking, etc.) they continually patronize the store. Over the years we’ve collected an incredible amount of people who are regular clients. Simply put, I know they love and appreciate this store.
Besides the respect from your clients and colleagues, what do you attribute to your longevity at Louis to?
Well, I didn’t really have a goal to get into retail, but I was young, and liked the clothing, and enjoyed myself. Getting to Louis and meeting Murray was inspiring and led to wonderful things. I don’t know what he saw in me, but I’m still here, so that’s something. But I have to say, he probably fired me at least a dozen times. One day we were walking down the street and I said, “Murray, you’ve fired me at least a dozen times – and I’m still here.” I paused and said, “What does that say about you?” He just chuckled and walked away. I was here to stay and we both knew it.
Jamie: …and once Louis closes?
Well, Our customers are asking where they can shop. There’s no other place like Louis, and quite honestly I’m not sure where to direct them. There is no good answer. Louis has always been the whole package, and we have merchandise you just can’t buy in other stores. You have been hand picking every item in the store, and creating fabrication and cut. You can find Kiton at Neiman’s but it will look nothing like the Kiton you would find at Louis.
If you could leave your customers with one piece of advice, what would it be?
There are no experts, only people with opinions.
I want people to know that they can’t dress for other people. I’m no expert, but I’ve helped a lot of people and seen some amazing things, and it’s a wonderful feeling to help someone and give them confidence.
The “Louis Look” puts checks and plaids and stripes together – but some men shied away because they lacked the confidence to go for it. I encourage you all to go for it, and when someone shakes their head don’t let them shake your confidence.
What’s next for you Arthur?
Customers are asking, “Where are you going?” But I honestly don’t know. I’m listening to offers and thinking about things. I could, but certainly don’t plan to retire. I still have gas in the tank and want to be in action.
This is what I do, so stay tuned for the next chapter of Arthur Jordan.