Local clothier opens second store amid skepticism
By Jonathan Farrell || Apr 15, 2015 in Small Business
Sonoma — Just around the corner from the plaza near some of Sonoma's finest eateries is Scott Lyall Clothes for Men. It opened in October of last year and has some of the most stylish and stunning men's attire seen anywhere.
Store manager Bobbi McJunkin takes a moment to show the exquisite detail of the Robert Graham line of shirts. "These are like works of art," she said.
The shop might be small but it is big on two very important elements, high quality and outstanding customer service. The Lyall shop is more than just another high-end store. It is an institution in and of itself, if this reporter can say so. The reason for saying this is because Scott Lyall represents all the good things anyone would want in a clothier.
“I am very proud of him, said his mom, Helen Lyall, he takes after me when it has to do with retail business," she said. Helen is the owner of Helen Lyall Women’s Clothing. She explained that Scott was raised in the business and really has an eye for men's fashion. Most importantly, he knows how to treat the customers right. "He will go to great lengths to help a customer. And, she said, it is that commitment to quality in every way, especially in customer service that keeps a business thriving.”
Helen Lyall’s is in downtown at The Riverfront, where Scott opened his Napa shop next-door four years ago. "Moving to this location at the Riverfront was perfect timing," she said. The town of Napa has been changing and growing, refurbishing the old part of town to become one of its most popular spots yet.
Scott Lyall and his mom Helen Lyall at the Riverfront shop in Napa, celebrating 4 year anniversary on Friday April 10, 2015.
And, as Scott explained, timing and “following one's gut” is all part of reaching success. "As you heard from my mom, I was born and raised in Napa. Everything I learn about retail I learned from my mom. I grew up in the retail business," he said. This is why he was confident about opening a shop in Sonoma. He was eager to tell his story as he said, “I opened my own store in the little historic town of Benicia. (not far from Vallejo). That was back in the early 1980's when I was 22.”
Eager to set up shop in the big city he relocated to San Francisco on Fillmore Street in 1986. It was just before the Loma Prieta Earthquake and he was doing well. But then after the quake struck, things began to change not only for his retail business but also in his personal life. After leaving Fillmore Street in 1992, he went into wholesale clothing at The Apparel Mart in San Francisco. His clients were high-end retailers such as Nordstrom, I. Magnin, etc. Yet, “It was not like having my own shop,” he said.
But then when his father died, Scott felt he needed to go back home to Napa County to work on his father's ranch. “I did this not only to honor my father but re-think my career,” said Scott. After putting things in order at the ranch, Scott said he was “itching to get back into the business.” "I had been out of the retail business for a while," he said. Yet, it was while on a trip to Los Angeles to visit with friends that an opportunity presented itself.
Leila Ross, a buyer I have known for years he said recommended the Robert Graham Clothing line to me. “When I saw the line, I knew immediately, this is it! This is the line I want to feature in my shop.” “I placed an order on the spot,” he said.
“On a more personal note,” said Gail Sims, I am really grateful for Scott helping my husband here pick out a new wardrobe. As you can see the Robert Graham shirt on my husband looks great!"
The Robert Graham line is one of the top high-end clothier's in the nation. It aims to embody “American eclectic” with bold prints, colorful patterns and anything but “bland, boring and same old, same old.”
And, most importantly to Scott, the line is committed to the highest quality, not only in fabric and material but also in craftsmanship. Here was a line that Scott could stand behind. “What I like most about Robert Graham clothes is, they are what they say. When you buy a Robert Graham shirt for example you are getting a unique limited edition design that is well-made, with embroidery, lots of detail and sporty.”
Scott admitted he likes sporty clothes more than formal business attire because “it is easy.” People tend to gravitate more towards sports- ware and casual clothes more so than formal or business attire. And as Bobbi McJunckin, store manager for the Sonoma location noted, “these shirts are like works of art.”
Scott Lyall carries several high-end men's clothier brands. All are exceptional in quality, detail and craftsmanship. “I look for items that pop and that I just have a good sense about." "Both my shops (the one in Napa and the one in Sonoma) are doing well,” he said. Like his mom's boutique a lot of business is tourists. Yet, he gives locals discounts because he loves their business too.
“People I know said I was crazy opening up a high-end shop during an economic downturn, a recession. But I just had this feeling in my gut to go for it.” Again, it is that "trust the gut feeling" that Scott believes in when it has to do with retail. Also, he confessed, “part of the reason I think I am successful is because I love retail. Being in the shop is not work to me. I enjoy meeting and helping people and to me that is crucial.”
And, what is most important to Scott in his overall philosophy is “you have to give back to the community. If you are not able to do that then don't bother being in business,” he said. Scott speaks to students at Vintage High School in Napa telling them how important it is to “love what you do and do it well." "I am a huge supporter of the up-and- coming. If people don't show support for the students, the schools, the youth, then what will happen to the future?”
Gail Sims, coordinator of the Regional Occupational Program at Vintage High is very pleased to have Scott to speak at gatherings and to talk to students about careers in retail. “I come from a retail background, so I understand what Scott is talking about. Before I taught at Vintage, I had years of experience in retail and marketing.”
“When Scott speaks to my students in the ROP program, those times have been excellent and a valuable resource for any student wanting to pursue a career in retail or small business management.”
The Regional Occupational Program (ROP) provides high-quality career preparation classes and services to prepare youth (16 years of age and older) and adults for successful careers in response to the needs of the local labor market. People of all economic backgrounds are welcome to enroll in the tuition-free program. Students include anyone preparing to enter or re-enter the job market, changing careers, or seeking career advancement. Work-bound and college-bound students are encouraged to enroll. Statewide each year, ROP provides high-quality hands-on career preparation to more than 500,000 high school students (16 years and older) and adults. Sims believes that ROP is vital and is a bridge to the working world for so many.
“I am the farthest from any corporate speaker, said Scott. Yet, I am very open, honest and blunt.” “People need to care because that is how the future is built and made better.”
Scott Lyall, Helen Lyall and Gail Sims at the gathering at the Scott Lyall Men's Clothing shop in Napa at The Riverfront.
His mom Helen believes Scott made the right choice not only about returning to retail, but also about opening up a second shop in Sonoma. “I was a little apprehensive at first, but I have faith in him. Sonoma is a good place. Scott brings more contemporary and unique styles into his shop. And, I think Sonoma can appreciated both, (the traditional and the more contemporary),” she said.
Located at 115 East Napa Street, (near the plaza), Scott Lyall clothes for men is open 10 AM to 6 PM, Monday through Saturday and open on Sunday, 11 AM to 5 PM. For more info visit the web site or call 707-933-8770.