The past generation has witnessed the devastation of what was once a stand-by across the nation: the independent men’s shop. The latest victim of the confluence of casual wear, chain stores, and Internet retailers is Lexington’s Graves-Cox & Company.
Started in 1888 by Leonard Cox’s grandfather, the market is just no longer viable. “I had already decided to stop carrying suits and sport coats, and only stock blazers,” Cox told me on Thursday. Cox has sold the store to Georgia investors associated with CountryClubPrep.com. He expects them to go the same casual direction he’s been forced into over the past years. “They won’t carry suits and sport coats at all,” Cox said.
Southwick, Barbour, Pantherella, Smathers & Branson, and Alden are just a few of the classic brands Graves-Cox stocks, and now has on sale. Cox told me he expects the sale to continue through June, but some items such as Alden shoes were already in short supply when the sale started.
My thrifting adventures have led me to a couple of vintage Graves-Cox store branded ties over time, both woven emblematics. The horse tie, appropriate to Lexington, probably dates from the 1970s, evidenced by its wider width. I have been considering having a bow tie made out of it. The older tie, likely dating from the 1950s-60s due to its width and construction, has little Confederate battle flags, reflecting Lexington’s Southerness from a time when folks didn’t get worked up by such things.
If you get a chance, stop by Graves-Cox before its doors close for good. Get a deal and look around. Chat with Leonard Cox. You can tell your grandchildren how you once visited an independent men’s store.