Shaia’s is one of the premier menswear stores in the Southern USA. It was founded by a Lebanese immigrant and began as a notions and dry goods store. Today it stocks a complete range of formalwear, accessories, premium denim, casualwear and shoes and features and onsite alterations department. Here, its fourth generation co-owner and buyer, Ken Shaia, discusses its rich history and what sets Shaia’s apart from other stores. Interview by Christopher Blomquist

What is the history of the store?
My great grandfather came to New York in about 1890, chasing a woman on his way from Beirut where he lived and wandered down through Nashville all the way down to Birmingham, Alabama. He bought this piece of property. Over the evolution of 90 years we were a mercantile store but we always found ourselves wanting to do better products. We finally went from women’s, men’s and children’s just to men’s with a twist of contemporary and luxury.

Are you the only store of your kind in the area?
There are other stores in our town. But we are focused about having a whole lifestyle experience within our store. It’s easy enough to see walls of great merchandise. You can do that across the world in any great department store so we really try to incorporate an incredible history with our customers. We have four generations of family that have gone to this point and our store will have three generations shopping with us at one time. We will have a 20-year-old son, a 40-year-old guy and a 60-year-old guy all kind of hanging out, having a good time and enjoying themselves. It’s kind of like an old coffee house. We’re just one of those places where people constantly come. We open our doors to fundraisers and people that need a space to be in that they like the environment of to do other things outside of just clothes whether it be the launch of a new restaurant or a new bartender that has moved to our town to show how he can make handcrafted drinks. Whatever the case is, we really feel like our mission is to be tailored to the needs of our community.

What are your bestselling jeans and sportswear brands?
We do J Brand, Scott James, Agave, Nudie, AG and NSF….

Shaia’s, 2818 18th Street South, Birmingham, Alabama 35209, USA, +1 205 871 1312
Shaia’s, 2818 18th Street South, Birmingham, Alabama 35209, USA, +1 205 871 1312

What brands’ performances have surprised you?
We were recently surprised when we put in a product in called FITS, which is a hosiery brand made in Tennessee. Our family had never sold a lot of socks—maybe $2,000 or $3,000 a year. Last year we put FITS socks in and in a physical year we were pretty blown away when we were able to sell $26,000 in retail. Another brand we’ve added amongst the old brands we’ve had is Scott James. It has definitely grown for us nicely. We’ve been very happy to have him down in our store. We recently had a really successful event where we had about 125 people show up. We put a pig on the grill out in the back of the parking lot and made homemade Mexican dishes.

What else has surprised you of late?
I have been surprised by the color that Scott James has brought into our store and people’s willingness to accept that color. That has been a nice, interesting element to his brand. I’ve noticed that people have been more willing to take a piece that his did and kind of layer it in to create more of a layered look with a splash of color. We’ve also done well with Rag & Bone and we’ve done amazingly well with Agave knits. Agave is celebrating their tenth anniversary. Just when we thought Agave was slowing down for us this season was a nice improvement for what we were able to sell for those guys.

Where do you find new products and brands?
For the most part we shop on the West Coast or New York: a little bit at MRket, a little bit at Capsule, a little bit at ENK, a little bit at the showrooms….

What do you think will be the most significant menswear trend for the season?
Men are little more comfortable putting on a scarf or an extra underpinning in a shirt—a nice soft jacket with a little vest. Basically wearing things with a little more flair. I think that in the past they tended to wear their clothing just as coverage, kind of like protection. Now they are seeing that they can extend their personal style. It’s not deemed silly to spend a little more time to find an extra piece to layer amongst your wardrobe to give yourself a little bit more of a punch.

2818 18th Street South
Birmingham, Alabama 35209
+1 205 871 1312