Danny Assal believes that you don’t have to sacrifice quality for a lower price when is comes to clothing. That’s been the premise of his retail store, Dan’s Clothier and Tailor Shop, since he opened for business more than 30 years ago in a tiny storefront in Olathe. Today Assal, affectionately known by customers as Dan Dan the Tailor Man, works 80-hour weeks from his shop located in Lenexa near Oak Park Mall.
Q: What is your business and what services do you offer?
“The main business is selling high-end business suits for a third of the price that everyone charges,” Assal said. “They start at $250 and go up to $950 for a three-piece suit.”
Assal’s buys the suits through a U.S. company that had them made overseas. The lines he carries include Tiglio, Radzoli and Baroni.
“They’re made with high-end fabric that doesn’t wrinkle, and we can order from size 34 to 80. … It’s custom ordered and we can usually get it within a week,” he said.
Assal does the alterations himself; when he’s swamped, Assal has two women who help him keep up with demand.
In addition to suits, Dan’s Clothier carries high-end formal gowns for women. He rents tuxedos, as well.
“Ninety percent of my business is making suits, five percent is women’s gowns and five percent is alterations,” he said.
Q: How did you get into this business and what was your training?
Assal, a native of Jerusalem, moved to the area in 1979 after serving in the Israeli Army for three years in an anti-terrorism unit.
Assal went to work for an industrial laundry but on Saturdays he worked with his then father-in-law, a tailor.
“I had been observing what he was doing,” Assal said. “I had never been under a sewing machine in my life.
“I was working as a plant superintendent for an industrial laundry company when I lost my job,” Assal said. “I told my father-in-law ‘I am going to start my own business’ and he said ‘You have no idea what you are doing,’ and I said, ‘I will have to learn.’ ”
Over the course of a year, Assal taught himself how to do alterations.
Q: How did you finance the business and find your location?
In the beginning, Assal found a small space in Olathe next to a men’s clothing store.
“I started business with $400 in a 300-square-foot shop,” Assal recalled. “It was my last $400. … “I bought two sewing machines, one for $100 and one for $50, and I took an iron and a mirror from home.”
The men’s clothing store next door was Assal’s first source of business.
“I got lucky because they gave me all the work and I traded the rent for the work,” he said.
Three years later, Assal lost his lease on the shop and began the search for what is Dan’s Clothier’s current location.
“I was driving on Quivira and I saw a sign for rent,” Assal said. “The rent was $1,500 and I told them I didn’t have any money and they said it’s six months for free and I took it,” he said. “My business quadrupled when I moved over here and I was able to pay the rent.”
When Assal moved from Olathe into the bigger space he added suits to the line.
“People were bringing in suits for me to alter that were just junk and I thought I could do better than that,” Assal said.
He then followed by adding ties followed by more suit styles.
Q: How do you work with your customers and market to them?
When a customer comes into Dan’s Clothier, Assal first assesses what they are looking for in a suit.
“We look at swatches, I measure him and I order the suit,” he said. “Then we have a final fitting to make sure it is all right.”
Assal has enticed customers by offering a different style of suits.
“I decided to get really weird and beautiful suits and customers came in and I would show them the suits and how much higher quality they are and they started buying them. … All my suits include free alterations forever and a free tie.”
Assal promotes his business using a combination of social media and traditional advertising.
“I do a lot of Facebooking, Twitter and a lot of radio,” he said. “Right now I am on three radio stations.”
Word of mouth has also been successful, Assal said. Ninety percent of his business comes from repeat customers, mostly businessmen. A number of them have moved out of town and Assal now travels to them.
“I do it once a week,” he said. “They will call me from Utah, Colorado … and some have even called me from Japan and Australia. I have developed clients all over the place.”
For those farther away, Assal sends a catalog and then ships their suit to them.
Assal enjoys working with teens and their parents, who tend to first come in the store looking for something to wear to a school dance or prom.
“I tell the parents don’t be stupid and rent a tuxedo, buy a suit and order it two sizes bigger,” Assal said. “I do the alterations so it fits them all through high school. Then I get the parents’ business.”
Now Assal has a second generation of customers coming in for clothing.
“It’s wonderful,” he said.
Q: How has your business changed over the years?
When Assal moved from Olathe into the bigger space he was able to add additional items, first ties and then more suit styles. There have been other changes, as well.
“When I opened the business the average size suit was a 40 long and now my average size is 52 long — everybody got fat,” he said with a laugh.
He has also expanded his wedding business.
“I tell them don’t rent a tuxedo. For another $50 they can buy a suit … and now my wedding business has exploded,” he said.
Assal does about 40 weddings a year, with many choosing to do suits instead of tuxedos.
“They look gorgeous because they fit perfectly,” he said.
Assal has also added a line of embroidery for companies that need logos on shirts. His son Jeremy helps with this end of the business.
Assal continues to do 90 percent of the alterations work himself, still using the same sewing machines he started the business with three decades ago.
“I come in at 5 in the morning to get it done,” he said. “Sometimes I work 100 hours a week. Alterations take time. … Nobody does what I do and no one can see the customer the way I do.”
Q: What competition do you face?
“I really don’t have any competition,” Assal said. “If you want to go to the big box stores it is a completely different kind of suit and more expensive. … Mine is 10 times nicer and it is cheaper (because) I don’t have any overhead.”
Q: What does the future hold for Dan’s Clothier?
“I got about 10 more years and I am done,” said Assal, who is 60.
“My store is me. If I am not here, my store is not doing anything. They want my attention and my smile.”
Ruth Baum Bigus: email@example.com and @ruthbb
Company: Dan Clothier & Tailor Shop
Address: 9660 Quivira Road, Lenexa
Telephone: (913) 541-1192