As time passes by I have noticed happy memories are occasionally tinged with sorry. So it is lately. I learned recently of the passing of a great institution, a dynasty if you will, in Athens, Georgia.
Several years ago, unbeknownst to me at the time, George Gibson’s Menswear closed its doors after half a century of servicing the Classic City.
George Gibson’s Menswear closed its doors Monday after almost 50 years of doing business in Athens.
Owner Thomas Hinson, who bought the business after the founder’s son died in 2008, said Monday was their last day as a full-service shop. Employees will be on hand to fill pre-made orders and hand over clothing dropped off for alterations for the rest of the week, he said.
He said the decline in business could be partially attributed to the economic recession, but also increased competition in a market of changing tastes.
“There’s increased competition in town, with the opening of some other men’s stores, and I think a changing in trend in how men dress,” Hinson said. “We live in an age where men dress more casually than they did even 10 years ago. You go the bank, and you can see that. Ten years ago, the guy at the bank wore a suit. Now, you don’t see that.”
The store opened in 1964 in the Beechwood Shopping Center, but moved in the mid-2000s to Baxter Street. Hinson said he started working at George Gibson’s in the 1990s while going to college and rejoined the shop in 2006.
He said he looked forward to coming to work every day.
Athens Banner Herald.
Gibson’s was a classic Menswear store. It was a fine shop which catered to fine gentlemen. One would find only the best clothes, shoes and accessories inside. Polo and Nautica were to common and, thus, were excluded. The front of the original store was filled with buffalo skin dress shoes, hand-crafted pocket knives and sportswear by the likes of Ike Behar. The back was reserved for suits and business and formal wear – all of which could be tailored on-site. It was a place where money did not matter (expensive) because the goods were worth it.
It was a men’s store. No women’s section. No children. Men only. Gentlemen only. At a time when even Brooks Brothers became Brothers, Sisters, Kids, and Everyone Else, Gibson’s held the line.
Few stores like this have survived. Given the increasingly obese and slovenly direction of America’s males the store seems a relic of the genteel past, a more formal and civilized age.
One can still catch a glimpse of Gibson’s grandeur here at their old Facebook site.
Times have changed. I write this with face bearded and shirt untucked. Yet, I am one of few who still, from time to time, dons a suit, who still weighs an appropriate number of pounds and who can still lift more than he weighs. Maybe I too am a relic of the old America.
I know much about Gibson’s and mourn its demise because I was a customer there long ago. For a short time I was also an employee. During my final summer at the University of Georgia I spoke to Andy Gibson, son of the founder, of my future plans and search for my first “real” job. He offered me part-time work while I searched. I only worked there a few months as I soon landed a position with real estate powerhouse Trammell Crow. My short tenure was, however, enjoyable and memorable.
Andy had taken over his father’s business a few years earlier. He strived, with great success, to keep things just as they were. He was a dedicated businessman and a wonderful person. He always smiled. He was always happy. He always shouldered the burden. He was a mentor, a friend, a big brother.
I continued to shop at Gibson’s years later as a budding attorney. My last visit was some ten years ago. I was going to a PGA tournament and needed something special. With my young daughter’s assistance I found it – a subdued, casual but elegant sports shirt. On a beer run at the links I actually bumped into the young man who sold me the cloth. Magical.
I knew that Andy died in 2008, much to young for so vibrant and dedicated a man. The picture below is the only one I could find of him – from his obituary. I don’t like it. It’s him but not at all as he was. The image is conservative enough but I remember him as more mature yet exuberantly happy.
Andy. Athens Banner-Herald.
Mr. George Gibson died in 2013. His lovely wife, who ran the alterations department in the back of the store, is also gone. I only met Mr. Gibson once maybe; I saw Mrs. Gibson regularly. She was a sweetheart.
Following Andy’s untimely departure the store was purchased by long-term employee, Thomas Hinson. I don’t remember him but it seems he held the helm admirable until the end. A year after Gibson’s closed Hinson died at the too young age of 35.
It’s all gone now. I have been in similar men’s stores from Atlanta to New York to Boston. None of them have the same feeling. None is special. Most of my better clothes these days come from Joseph A. Banks, a nice store but a chain store. I guess some things belong in the past.
Gibson’s will be missed and not just by me.
George Gibson’s Baxter Location, circa 2010. Facebook.