Home Mens wear For a century, Shaia’s has been “responsive to the needs of our customers”

For a century, Shaia’s has been “responsive to the needs of our customers”


Ken is neither socks nor tie. JL is complete.

JL plans, organizes and can measure perfectly.

Ken is a self-proclaimed spontaneous maverick.

Both are of the pocket handkerchief or handkerchief type in the jacket pocket.

Like the merchandise they carry in their store, they have impeccable style and generational appeal with an international flair.

They trace their roots and family business to a Lebanese peddler who moved to Alabama in the early 1900s.

how it started

In 1905, with a 100-pound bag on his back, SG Shaia began peddling haberdashery and household goods in Jefferson, Shelby, and Walker counties.

In 1922 he moved his family from the Southside of Birmingham to a dirt road in the ‘boondocks’, where he built a house and store next door, and established a garden of figs and vines. Four years later, the dirt road became part of the incorporated town of Homewood.

The first and second generations of the Shaia family to operate the business – founder SG, right, and his son, Alexander. (contributed)

SG’s wife, Badia, ran the store while SG continued to peddle. The original store sold “everything from toothpaste to work clothes” to a community that, at the time, had no grocery store or pharmacy. “Our first business license is about cigarettes and bottled beverages,” said JL Shaia, the founders’ grandson.

In 1933, Alexander “AJ” Shaia, the second generation, took over from his mother and father. At this time, the store’s name and focus shifted to Shaia’s Dry Goods. Under AJ’s leadership, the store eventually became “more like a small store, because he saw that need in the community. Every generation added to the store,” JL said.

The third generation – JL and his brother Leo – began working full-time in the store in the mid to late 1950s. In 1955 Shaia’s moved to the space that was originally the Shaia Garden and on which Lane Rexall Drug Co. had built a store in 1941.

“We had visions to make the store better, to change it,” said a relaxed, well-adjusted JL, sitting on a leather sofa, resting his feet on the same hardwood floors as Rexall. “Dad never stopped us.”

“(Leo and I) felt there was a strong need to specialize in one area of ​​retail,” JL said. “So in 1964 we closed the store for two weeks and totally remodeled the interior and reopened as a men’s store.”

The brothers have supplied their business with the best brands in the world. Leo retired in 2015 at the age of 75. JL remained active on a day-to-day basis through 2020. Now JL comes in as he pleases, doing office work and helping out when needed in the bespoke part of international menswear. shop.

In mid-July, MR Magazine, a publication specializing in men’s retail, will honor JL Shaia with its Lifetime Achievement Award during New York’s Men’s Fashion Market Week – a fitting climax to a career in more than six decades.

fourth generation

When you enter Shaia at 2818 18e St. S. in Homewood, a carved metal vine wraps around the doorknob, paying homage to the family garden that once occupied this plot of land. Ken had the idea to include this detail in a 1996 renovation.

Ken Shaia, JL’s son, joined the family business in 1986, adding even more European designers and, along with his father and uncle, making the store known as one of “the most exciting men’s clothing stores of America (2004-2005)”, a decade of Esquire “Gold Standard” awards and the Gold Alabama Retailer of the Year Award (2009).

“Our business has never been better than it is today,” Ken said, sitting next to his dad on the sofa in the store. From his father, Ken learned to value those he works with and allow everyone to bring their strengths to every sale.

Shaia’s employs 10 people, which is a consistent staffing level. The typical employee has about a decade of experience with Shaia’s. “We would hire another tailor, if we could find the right person,” Ken said, adding that he planned to find a place for a young man “interested in the clothing business”. If anyone is interested, we’ll direct them to the business and what it’s like to be in front of the customer. »

For 100 years, Shaia has been focused on the customer.

“If you’re really in the service business and really listen to your customers, you can use that insight as a tool to scale,” Ken said.

This story was originally published by Alabama Retailer.