Like most things in life, timing is everything. And no one seems to know this better than Trey Gonzales [shown in photo above] and Kip Helverson, the new co-owners of Smith’s Men’s Store in Lake Forest.
“The Chamber [Lake Forest-Lake Bluff] announced that we were reopening Smith’s Men’s Store just as stories were circulating about other businesses in town that were closing,” Trey says. “I think our news gave people hope that local retail can be strong again.”
Trey and Kip moved to Lake Forest in 2017 and immediately fell in love with the community. It was actually Kip who had the dream to open a store in town.
“We talked about what we could do and heard that Smith’s was for sale,” says Trey. “We heard from a number of our friends that Lake Forest needed Smith’s.”
So Trey and Kip got to work, beginning with a total restoration of the store itself. “My design inspiration for the space was a classic navy-blue blazer and khakis,” says Trey, who left his job managing a custom-lighting showroom at the Merchandise Mart in Chicago. “We want the space to feel familiar but fresh. We’ll be hanging pictures that show the store’s history and John Tadel [the previous owner] will be helping us for the next several months.”
Trey and Kip will maintain many of Smith’s beloved clothing brands, while introducing new men’s accessories, gift items, and apothecary products. Featured brands include Vineyard Vines, Barbour, Southern Tide, johnnie-O, Peter Millar, as well as a line of denim and workout wear designed specifically for men. The store also will continue to offer formal-wear rentals and a plentiful supply of black bow ties for special events.
“We had our first tuxedo rental for Fortnightly today,” says Trey of the high school dance that takes place locally over Thanksgiving break. “We had a worried mom with complicated holiday plans that were making renting a tux for her son difficult. We didn’t even have our register working yet when she came by, but we got her son all squared away so that his tux is waiting for him the day of his dance.”
Trey, who will be the face of Smith’s Men’s Store and manage the daily operations as Kip continues to work full-time in software technology, is excited to point out the special runs Vineyard Vines and Southern Tide did specifically for Smith’s shoppers. “We want every customer to feel like we’ve been waiting for them to walk through our door all day,” he says. “It’s all of the little things that we will do–our service–that will set us apart from the Internet shopping they can do.”
Located in its longtime storefront at 770 N. Western Avenue in downtown Lake Forest, Smith’s is poised to give customers many reasons to shop in town rather than online. It will offer custom suiting and tailoring and special ordering with a quick turnaround time when an item is not in stock. Smith’s also is embracing new technology–a new inventory system and a recently launched website, smithsmensstore.com. Additionally, they will host events benefiting non-profit organizations.
Trey and Kip are members of The Church of the Holy Spirit, and Trey is on the Lake Forest Preservation Foundation Board of Directors and Gorton Community Center’s Arts & Culture Council.
“Most of our fashion inspiration comes from classic movies,” Trey says. “My years in the interior design industry have trained my eye to appreciate texture, color, fit, and quality.”
The Smith’s Men’s Store grand reopening will begin with a ribbon cutting at 10 a.m. on Saturday, November 23; the store will be open that day until 6 p.m. Smith’s is located at 770 N. Western Avenue, Lake Forest. Call 847-234-5866 (Smith’s longtime landline number) or visit smithsmensstore.com for more information.