In the age of big-box stores and online retailers, the brick-and-mortar shop Houck’s Menswear has prospered without a huge Internet presence, instead relying on great customer service and bargain prices.
“Americans are often fooled because they’re not shopping, they’re buying,” said owner Larry Houck. “Here, I have that customer service like the old days. People can come in, feel the clothing and try it on.”
Houck opened his Cape St. Claire shop in 2016 after one year in Centreville and more than three years in Chestertown, Maryland.
“This location has parking and is in the center of quite a few people,” he said of the Cape St. Claire shopping center. “The community here is young and diverse.”
When Houck was young, he didn’t know he would eventually be in the menswear business. He originally had aspirations of being a lawyer. Soon after graduating from the University of Maryland in 1979, the Glen Burnie High School alum was hired to sell clothes at Phillips Men's Shop in Laurel, Delaware.
Houck realized that career suited him better, although he took a roundabout journey to get there. He spent time in Palm Beach, Florida, and then 20 years in the fulfillment business before opening his own menswear store.
“Moving product around intrigues me, and I like being with the public,” he said.
Houck’s Menswear carries suits, jackets, pants, shirts, hats, gloves and an array of other apparel.
“My theme is business causal,” Houck said. “The suits and sports coats are only for funerals and weddings.”
He also offers tuxedos for students to rent during prom season, a service used by teens from Severna Park and Broadneck high schools, as well as St. Mary’s and Archbishop Spalding.
From Bills Khakis to Schott NYC, the brands at Houck’s all sell American-made clothing.
“It seems like everyone has to have a North Face, but there are American companies that compete in the trend world,” Houck said. “American companies are just as competitive. I [sell American clothing] because I’m patriotic and because it keeps people employed.”
Houck has a patriotic spirit, and that support starts in the local community as a member of the Lions Club and the Knights of Columbus. Through silent auctions and items donated, he also supports Devine Mercy Academy, the Goshen Farm Preservation Society, the Marine Toys for Tots program, the Cape St. Claire strawberry festival, Hospice of the Chesapeake Foundation, Arnold Senior Center, and Chesterton Academy of Annapolis.
“In the fraternal organizations, you meet people of all backgrounds,” he said.
Those connections have been just one rewarding aspect of being a small-business owner. With community support and an emphasis on customer service, Houck hopes his store will continue to thrive.