Selling service for generations

A medium-sized wooden box sits on a corner desk at Ford’s Clothier in Rocky River. The box is filled with index cards with customers’ names and their purchases.

Owner Tom Gorton says the index cards help him build relationships with his customers. 

“Nine out of the 10 people who come in the store, we know your name,” he says. “If we don’t know your name when you walk in, we know your name when you walk out.”

Gorton says the store’s service helps draw customers back to the men’s apparel. Since he started working at the store in 1971, Gorton has seen generations of families come through. In fact, Gorton recently helped fit a customer’s 23-year-old son for a suit for a job interview. 

After nearly a century in business, Gorton expects people to come back.

“We’ve always carried better, updated, traditional clothing from swim trunks to tuxedos, and everything in between,” he says. 

William Ford opened Ford’s Clothier in 1913 on 1824 West 48th Street. Three generations of Fords have run the store. A picture of William, George and Jeff hang on the wall. Jeff sold it to Gorton in 2008. 

Gorton began working at the store as a junior at Rocky River High School. He continued working part-time through college at Cleveland State University. After graduation, he came back to the store, where he has worked full time since. 

Among the employees, Gorton estimates they have about 125 years in the men’s apparel business. 

Over the years, Gorton has developed a simple approach to clothing: “You get what you pay for.”

Gorton says buying quality fabric and quality workmanship may cost more, but the garment will last longer. In the long run, he says it’s an investment.

The store sells popular apparel brands such as Sameuelsohn, Jack Victor, Joseph Abboud, Tommy Bahama, Robert Talbott, Lacoste and Allen Edmonds.

“At Ford’s, you’re never going to be on the cutting edge of fashion, but you’re never going to be out of style,” he says.

In addition to knowing customers’ names, Gorton makes the extra effort to serve them, including in-store alterations, gift wrapping, special deliveries and extended store hours. 

“If somebody said they needed the suit tomorrow, we’ll make something work,” he says.

Ford’s Clothier is located at 19821 Detroit Road and is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday; from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday and Thursday; and is closed Sundays.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010