By STEVEN NALLEY
George Sherman estimates that 120-150 young men and women have worked at his men’s clothing store.
Sherman said most of them come to work for him during their senior years of high school, and continue to work there to pay their way through an education at Mississippi State University. The store’s alumni range from orthopedic surgeons to an owner of a furniture manufacturing company, Sherman said, and many of them start their own businesses or continue careers in retail or sales.
Few of them, he said, stay in the clothing business.
“They probably thought it was too hard,” Sherman said, laughing. “Maybe not too hard, but too demanding. They see me here, 60 years old, working 60 hours a week. I still enjoy coming to work and selling clothes every day. I still enjoy the contact with people.”
Readers of the Starkville Daily News voted for George Sherman Clothiers to receive the “Best Men’s Clothing” award in the 2011 Best of Starkville Awards. Sherman said the key to his success is a genuine desire to help people that he instills in all his employees.
“I think it’s very rewarding for me to help people not only make a good impression on other people, but also to look better, feel better about themselves, and possibly even act better,” Sherman said. “A happy customer is a repeat customer.”
On the merchandise front, Sherman said he focuses on providing a broad selection at an affordable price.
“If it looks great but it’s too expensive, you haven’t done anything,” Sherman said. “It would be easy to sell a $250 shirt in La Jolla, Calif., but it wouldn’t be easy to sell one here.”
Sherman said even his merchandise selection is a function of customer service. For example, Sherman said he takes great pride not only in his selection of neckwear but also in his employees’ ability to help customers pick the right tie for the right occasion.
“We probably have the best selection of neckties and bow ties anywhere around,” Sherman said. “We don’t just point someone to the table and say, ‘There are our ties.’ We ask, ‘What are you wearing it for?’”
Sherman said one of the keys to making sure his employees care about customers as much as he does is to start looking for possible candidates long before the time comes to hire them.
“We generally hire local people who I’ve known something about, just knowing them from their families,” Sherman said. “You can’t fake that genuine love of people. Unless you have a genuine desire to help people, you probably ought to be doing something else.”
One of Sherman’s more recent hires is John Kyle Hewlett, who spent his senior year at Starkville Academy working for Sherman and will be starting his studies at MSU this fall.
“I came in here a lot as a kid and always told George I wanted to work here,” Hewlett said. “I didn’t realize how much goes on here. There’s a lot more to it than putting on a suit. It’s being loyal to your customers and your bosses. We all hold each other accountable.”
Trey Templeton has been a manager and buyer with Sherman for nearly 11 1/2 years, and he said the store staff have taken extraordinary measures to keep customers happy. Once, he said, a customer came in with one hour left before a meeting in need of new pants and a new shirt.
“He was a guy from out of state, and he had forgotten his clothes,” Templeton said. “We actually had a tailor alter and prepare his pants, and we pressed his shirt. Within the hour, we were able to get the pants to our tailor and back. I actually dropped him off at his meeting.
“We do stuff like that a lot,” Templeton added. “It’s just a natural instinct to go out of your way to help them.”
Templeton said he worked part time for Sherman during college, like many before and after him. After he had already taken a post-college job out of town, he said, Sherman offered him a full-time job at his store, and he took it.
“I enjoy clothes and just meeting new people and helping them satisfy their needs,” Templeton said. “I enjoy getting to know our customers.”