What's with all the well-dressed guys walking around Bird Rock? Chances are they're coming out of A Better Deal Tuxedo & Suits, a family business in the neighborhood since 1998 that's owned by happily transplanted Midwesterner Jerry Klein.
Klein's philosophy is a simple one: "I enjoy making people happy with what they're wearing."
A Better Deal encompasses 5,000 square feet and houses its complete inventory — tuxedos, suits and formalwear accessories — on site. Klein's staff numbers anywhere from five to seven, depending on the season. Not surprisingly, they're busier at prom time or when traditional June weddings roll around, but Klein says the business is pretty steady. Formalwear, he says, is "for important occasions but also for people who are facing the public."
Klein learned the business long before he moved to San Diego in 1970, working for someone else in Chicago. It was a job that would take him all over the United States as that store expanded. "I got the chance to run a couple of stores in Chicago," Klein recalled, "and the next thing I know he was selling franchises throughout the country. It was a huge success."
But all the traveling kept Klein away from his family. Deciding to settle in one place and be his own boss, he chose San Diego. Today both he and his wife remain actively involved in the store. "It's still seven days a week," Klein said. "My wife Janet is a big contributor. Both of us have enjoyed it and we have been pretty successful with it, thank goodness."
Thanks, too, to the customer service that Klein insists upon for his employees. Most formalwear stores, he said, are "mall stores" where the personal touch can be lost. At A Better Deal "It isn't just 'Hi, what can I do for you? Give me a 40 regular,' and they're gone. It's more of a pleasure to solve their problems.
"We teach our people to make sure the customers are happy about their clothes."
What's popular in formalwear is cyclical. Klein pointed out that favored colors change as do styles, "from the bell bottoms to the very 'not-tailored' garments." More and more men are choosing fine suits as well as tuxedos for formal occasions, and the popularity of accessories such as cummerbunds is noticeable.
One thing that Klein says hasn't changed: "People's desire to dress up."
In case you're wondering, A Better Deal is also selling garments for women now. "We're making some of that inventory available for them as well," Klein said. "They deserve the same service and respect that we give (men)."
After more than 40 years in the formalwear business, you'd think the Kleins might be thinking about retirement. Not so. This industry, Klein said, "keeps you going and keeps you interested in people and in clothing."
A Better Deal Tuxedo & Suits, 369 Bird Rock Ave., La Jolla. (858) 551-6044, abetterdealtuxedo.com
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