Kelly Pepper used to be a large man. “Then about eight years ago I had gastric bypass surgery and lost 145 pounds,” Pepper said proudly.
Like many who experience such drastic weight loss, Pepper suddenly found himself left with a closet of clothes he could no longer wear.
“Somebody suggested I consign my clothes,” Pepper recalled. “I didn’t even know what consignment meant. So I looked it up and I went on a search for a consignment store for men. I couldn’t find one anywhere and that’s when I thought to myself, ‘I can’t be the only one out there.’ So that’s when I decided to open my own.”
Originally, Pepper opened his store, Gentlemen’s Consignment, in Plymouth in 2012. But the following year he relocated to Royal Oak, where he continues to do a brisk business.
“A lot of my consigners came from the Bloomfield Hills area and shopped at the Somerset Collection,” said Pepper. “They would say that Plymouth was just too far.”
Since opening his store, Pepper said he has learned a tremendous amount about men’s fashion. “I was not a fashion guy,” Pepper confessed. “I didn’t know anything about brand names. I was not label driven before I opened my store. It was a learning process. As the years have progressed, so has my knowledge of designers, cuts, content, quality, why something is made the way it is, what particular designers are known for and who to steer away from and why. My knowledge has really developed.”
Now, Pepper loves to share what he’s learned with his customers.
“I would like everyone to know that I am here and I’ve developed a keen sense of fashion and detail,” said Pepper. “So I can act as my customer’s filter. It’s not just anything that comes through the door that I accept. I’m particular and they’re going to see that in what’s in here as well. You’re not going to have stained collars or missing buttons or a loose seat. If it’s damaged or shows even a little bit of wear I don’t accept it.”
Pepper said his best sellers are shoes and sports shirts.
“I sell a lot of shoes,” he said. “You wouldn’t think so but I’m very particular about what I accept.”
The one exception to that rule is boots.
“Western boots, cowboy boots…they just don’t move. My slowest sellers, but they’re still very good sellers, would be suits. However, I do a fair amount of business with suits.”
Not everyone knows how to find the perfect fitting suit, but Pepper said he can help.
“When a gentleman comes in who’s not very well versed on how to wear a suit I tell the guy the first thing you need to fit is the shoulders, because everything else from the shoulders down can be altered, in terms of the jacket,” explained Pepper. “It can even be shortened if you really want it shortened. The same way with the pants, you’ve got to fit the waist. I can go to the rack and pick out a suit and I’m pretty sure I have the right fit. And when a guy comes in I can tell him what size he is without a tape measure, and I’m pretty accurate.”
As successful as he’s been through the years, Pepper said he’s unsure why there are not more men’s consignment shops in the metro Detroit area.
“I would love to know that answer,” he said. “There’s consignment for women, for children, infants, housewares, furnishings. There are even a few car lots that are consignment. But for men this is it. I don’t understand. There should be more. And hopefully I’ll find someone who will help me put more out there.”
Yes, Pepper is looking for a business partner to help him take Gentlemen’s Consignment to the next level.
“I’m looking for somebody who’s going to actively work in the store alongside me,” said Pepper. “I’m only one person and I can’t do it all. I’ve taken this as far as I can as a one-man band, so to speak.”
But Pepper plans to keep doing what he’s doing until the perfect partner comes along. In
addition to clothes, he’s expanded his accessories department and you can find belts by Gucci and Prada in the store as well as a bracelet by Hermes. He’s also has wallets, cufflinks, and – his favorite – bowties.
“I love, love bow ties,” Pepper said. “We’re actually having a Tie One On event on April 8 from 12-6 p.m. for guys who want to come here to learn how to tie bowties.
“When it comes to showing customers how to tie a bowtie, I’m the most patient person in the world,” Pepper continued. “I love bowties, I love tying bowties and I love showing customers how easy it is to tie bowties.”
For more information on Gentlemen’s Consignment call 248-591-4554 or stop by the store located at 623 South Washington Ave. in Royal Oak.