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Start Your Business Entrepreneurs

Small Business Snapshot: Alan David Custom

Small Business Snapshot: Alan David Custom Credit: Adelina Joson

Our Small Business Snapshot series features photos that represent, in just one image, what the small businesses we feature are all about. Alan Horowitz, owner of Alan David Custom, explains how this image represents his business.

I am a fourth-generation men's clothing retailer. My store, Alan David Custom, sells high quality men's custom suits in New York City. All garments, including tuxedos, sport coats, trousers, overcoats, raincoats, shirts and even custom ties, are fully custom-made – nothing made-to-measure or off-the-rack. Everything is made in the U.S.A.; nothing is outsourced overseas.

I started my career with Moe Ginsburg (my grandfather) back in 1992. At the time, Moe Ginsburg sold 1,000 suits a week and occupied 70,000 square feet in the Flatiron District. The store was forced to close when casualization hit, so I opened my own business in March of 2001 in Downtown Manhattan one block from the World Trade Center. I had a 10,000-square foot loft and sold popular price off-the-rack suits.

A few months later, when 9/11 occurred, my store and the area was damaged badly. Instead of quitting, I hired a retired custom clothier who taught me how to measure. He still had a customer following and he took me to their homes and offices. Thus, I transitioned into the custom suit business.

I closed my original store in 2004 and opened a small showroom, still Downtown, in 2005. Then the City condemned the building to build the Fulton Street Train Hub, so they kicked me out. Still fighting, I took space in Midtown, and the rest is history.

As an owner, it's important to me to be hands-on with every aspect of the business. I treat my clients like gold, and I want to get to know them. But my passion is my tape measure. I set out many years ago to perfect the bespoke measuring process. I can fit anybody, from a 5-year-old boy to the heaviest of men.

I believe that custom suits need to not only fit, but be flattering as well. A custom suit can fit but it can be boxy or the lapels can be too wide or the button stance can be off. Those little details can turn an average fitting suit into a perfect fitting work of art. And when that client walks into a room, everybody is going to marvel at the fit and know it is custom-made for him.

I can make a person look taller by adjusting the jacket length. I can make a person look skinnier by placing the button stance in the exact place. I can take sloping shoulders and make them look regal and I can take a big ass and make it look smaller. All by adjusting some critical measurements that I have learned through the years.

My biggest hurdle is how to handle our growth. I refuse to open another store; I need to work with my clients or at least be there to oversee everything. I cannot replicate myself and it is very difficult to find good custom tailors and fitters. I am fortunate to have several good ones, but they have been with me for years and as they approach retirement age there are no younger tailors coming through the pipeline.

I can only see so many clients in a day, a week, a month or a year, so my business will always be capped. But if my clients are happy, I can live with that, because I know nobody else will treat them like I do. I give them free lifetime alterations. I recut any garment that I or the client does not feel is perfect. I call every client 30 days after they pick up their custom suits to make sure they are happy – and most of all, I care.

I am carrying the torch of generations past. I am very proud of the legacy and the name my family has built in this industry, and hope to eventually pass it along to the 5th and even 6th generation.

Edited for brevity and clarity by Nicole Fallon.