The Lansky family name is part of Memphis’ culture and history. Our FACE of Memphis, Julie Lansky, is in the third generation of the Lansky Bros.’ retail business. Julie’s grandfather Bernard J. Lansky was a co-founder of Lansky’s, and he is remembered as clothier to musical royalty such as B.B. King, Johnny Cash and even the King, Elvis.
Today, Julie keeps the tradition of Lansky’s going as buyer and marketing manager for all four Lansky Bros. shops, which are housed in the historic lobby at The Peabody hotel. Julie has helped develop the clothing label, Lansky Bros. Clothier to the King, featuring a whole fashion line in Lansky at The Peabody, which includes sport shirts, sport coats, sweaters, shoes, belts, socks, T-shirts and hats. In her “spare time,” Julie is in the Executive Class of 2014 for Leadership Memphis, and she is a Rock ‘n’ Soul Museum board member.
Have you lived anywhere besides Memphis?
I was born and raised a Memphian, graduated from the University of Colorado-Boulder, where I studied at the School of Journalism and Mass Communication with an advertising emphasis, and then I returned to Memphis.
What was it like growing up in the cornerstone fashion business of Memphis?
With the Lansky history spanning 68 years, we’ve evolved and changed throughout the decades. When I was growing up in the 1980s, we were in the big and tall menswear business: We had Lansky Big & Tall at the Eastgate shopping center, as well as Hercules, a chain of Big & Tall stores throughout the Mid-South region. In 1981 (the year I was born), my grandfather Bernard opened a small men’s shop in the lobby of The Peabody hotel. That was the year The Peabody reopened.
As a little girl, my twin sister and I would visit my dad (Hal J. Lansky) on Saturdays in the Eastgate store. We ran around and played in his office and watched the tailors in the back of the store do the alterations. Family dinners always involved my grandfather sharing stories about the people he encountered throughout the day.
When did you know that you would join the family business?
I had no intention of joining the family business. I moved home after graduating from college, and it happened to be right at the time my dad was opening Lansky 126. He saw the trend of premium denim coming into the marketplace and decided it was time to add a younger demographic shopping experience at Lansky’s. This was also the first time the company entered into women’s fashion.
I started working on the sales floor that first summer and noticed that Lansky Bros. needed a major update to its web presence. We had a lot of customers coming into The Peabody hotel to shop with us, but they weren’t from Memphis. With an updated web presence, we would be able to keep a relationship with customers who weren’t able to get back to the physical shop. So, my first role in the company was creating the website. By the end of the first summer, I was working on the website that would launch in the fall and was starting to attend trade shows in New York and Las Vegas with my father.
I was quickly thrown in the fire, and he showed me how to buy clothing for Lansky 126. Now it’s 12 years later, and I couldn’t imagine doing anything else. Retail is in my blood.
With customers such as Elvis, Johnny Cash and B.B. King, the Lansky family must be pretty at home with celebrities. Have you been the clothier to any celebrities recently?
One of the many perks of the job is that you never know who is going to walk through your doors. We see a lot of musicians, actors, athletes and reality stars. In the last few months, we’ve seen Rascal Flatts, Sara Evans, Lou Gossett Jr., Wink Martindale, Charles Esten (Deacon on Nashville), Kellie Pickler, Priscilla Presley, the Avett Brothers, Marc Cohn, John Rich (Big & Rich), Kix Brooks and more.
A lot of musicians come because they want to shop where the King shopped. They are fascinated by the history, and they also are in search of cool outfits to wear on stage that are different.
How does the downtown shopping experience stand out?
There’s a history, and there is an undeniable cool factor to downtown Memphis. Locally owned shops and restaurants make up the DNA of downtown.
Do you have a favorite of the four Lansky stores (Lansky at The Peabody, Lansky 126, The Accessories Shop and Lucky Duck Gifts)?
Of course. It’s Lansky 126. I’ve been there since the beginning in 2002 and have seen it grow exponentially through two expansions.
Lansky Bros. added The Accessories Shop in May 2013. How did you choose that niche?
There was a need to bring more jewelry, handbags and accessories as an add-on to the merchandise mix in Lansky 126. The Accessories Shop grew out of a desire to create a separate space to feature jewelry, handbags, hats, scarves and some clothing. Customers were asking for more, for that last accent to complete their outfit, and we wanted to creatively merchandise a fun environment with a different vibe from any of our other stores.
It’s all about fun and creativity when accessorizing, and at this shop you can create your own bracelets or necklaces from Lenny & Eva or Waxing Poetic. Or, as the trend goes, have an “Arm Party” with stackable bracelets from Alex and Ani or Rose Gonzales. There are hand-painted vests in this shop that you can wear three ways — long, short or as a scarf. Other highlights of this shop are: Ayala Bar Jewelry, Anne Marie Chagnon Jewelry, MZ Wallace handbags, Big Buddha clutches and bags, and tech accessories. And we’ve just gotten in a great selection of spring and summer hats. Bring on the sun, already!
Do all of the Lansky stores share a common thread, or is each completely unique?
We are Lansky at The Peabody with four concepts interwoven by our Lansky identity, which is to bring hard-to-find and unique products to our shops. For many years we only focused on men, and now we hit all demographics. Everyone can find something in one of the shops: a sharp men’s sport coat for a dinner party from Lansky at The Peabody, a hip pair of jeans in Lansky 126 for men or women, cute baby gifts featuring ducks in Lansky Lucky Duck, or stackable bracelets from Alex and Ani at The Accessories Shop.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
On the first day of work, my dad told me, “When you own your own business, you create your own destiny.”
Do you have a favorite quote?
“Sunday was a day of rest, now it’s one more day for progress.” — Rascal Flatts
I usually work six to seven days a week, and the shops in The Peabody are open seven days a week.
Do you have a mentor or role model?
My father and grandfather. Being the third generation in the family business, I was taught customer service and how to talk to just about anyone from my grandfather. I’ve learned the business aspect from my father. We work very closely together.
What is your must-have fashion item for Spring/Summer 2014?
Lysse leggings! They are the best. I think I have a pair for every day of the week. They are comfortable, and you can dress them up or down.
What books are on your coffee table?
The Elements of Personal Style: 25 Modern Fashion Icons On How to Dress, Shop & Live by Elle Magazine editors Joe Zee and Maggie Bullock.
Marilyn Monroe: A book from the Salvatore Farragamo Museum in Florence, Italy, of an exhibit we toured while in Italy for a trade show last year.
Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty, from an exhibit from the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
What three things could you not live without?
My iPad, my BlackBerry and my FitBit.
Thank you for sharing a slice of history in the making with us, Julie, as you continue to build this Memphis retail tradition!
And thank you to Keith Montgomery, our photographer at The Peabody today.