LEXINGTON, Ky. – The decision to retire has prompted Leonard Cox, owner of Graves Cox & Company to close the downtown men’s clothing store that has been a familiar local name since 1888.
“The clothing business is a young man’s game and getting more so. We’re doing the right thing,” said Cox, whose grandfather co-founded the business in 1888 after attending the University of Michigan Law School. “It’s time to slow down, enjoy time with my wife and see my children.”
Cox said he has reached an agreement with two Georgia investors who will open another men’s clothing store at the same location in August. He is uncertain if the Graves Cox name will continue.
The store’s inventory sale opens to the public on Thursday, May 22. Graves Cox, located at 325 W. Main St., will be open 9:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. weekdays, 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Saturday, and 12:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. Sunday during the sale.
Cox joined the family business in 1965 after graduating from the University of Virginia and worked with his father and Joe Graves, grandson of the co-founder. The company went through a number of changes, including opening a mall store in 1967. It was acquired in 1969 by Genesco, a Nashville retailer, that later sold the company to employees. Cox purchased the company in 1999 and reopened the business in 2004 at its current location.
Cox noted the men’s clothing industry has changed dramatically over the years as the workplace has shifted from business attire to casual wear. As a result, many top-line clothing makers have fallen by the wayside. Chain retailers and internet sales have also pressured independent clothing stores.
“People don’t wear suits every day. Consequently, they don’t have a wardrobe of five or six suits or sports coats. Independent stores have got to change with the times. Young people are coming into the industry and it’s going to be done a new way. That’s healthy for the industry,” said Cox, whose interests include serving as the kicking coach at Henry Clay High School for 12 years. “Graves Cox is a great name. The longevity, reputation for honesty and integrity factor are important, but if you don’t have what people want they don’t care about the history.”
He said one constant is the “big need for that one-on-one knowledge” that an experienced retailer brings to the retail floor.
“It’s like going to a doctor you’ve known for years and you feel comfortable with. I’m like a clothes doctor. You may not want to hear what I’m going to tell you sometimes, but you know I’m going to tell you the truth and I’m going to tell you what you need to hear,” he added. “It’s time to graciously bow out, and let younger people learn and re-invigorate the retail industry — an industry that needs new blood! I will be a coach again; helping others to improve and learn this challenging ‘retail game.'”