Kelley’s Mens Shop celebrates its 80th anniversary in style today, with cake, a trunk show and photo albums sharing images from the business’ past at its West Side location.
“It’s quite a feat to keep the store going with all the changes that have happened since 1934,” said Kenny Waldeck, whose aunt and uncle opened the store’s doors on the edge of downtown Charleston eight decades ago.
Waldeck said operating a clothing store was a life-long dream of his uncle, Orris Kelley, who taught in Roane County with his brother before moving to Charleston.
The Great Depression spoiled Orris Kelley’s first clothing store venture, Kelley’s Store, which was located in the Staats Hospital building. Orris left Charleston for the Texas oil fields and returned with enough money to try again with Kelley’s Mens Shop.
The first location was nestled between the Staats Hospital building and The Grill bar and restaurant.
Waldeck said the store grew on Charleston’s West Side, moving and expanding several times on Washington Street before finding its current home in 1954.
The store focused more on customized care, with special orders and tailoring after the chemical corporations began to downsize in the area, Waldeck said.
“You have to adjust with the times and change your inventory,” Waldeck said. “We were known for our [large] inventory for years and years.”
Kelley’s offers more casual options now. In August, the store opened a second, smaller location, Kelley’s On Bridge, which features casual sportswear.
Sue Metheny was a fan of Kelley’s Mens Shop long before she worked there.
Metheny started shopping at Kelley’s about 50 years ago for her husband, father and other male family members. She’s worked at the West Side location for 11 years.
“There is no store like Kelley’s,” she said. “They are the friendliest. They treat you like you want to be treated.”
Metheny said today’s trunk show, which runs from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m, will feature Allen Edmonds shoes, Hicky-Freemand suits, Gitman shirts and Brighton belts.
“Businesses today are large entities,” Metheny said. “You come into a privately owned, family-owned business, they really care about their customers. There’s not an employee here that can’t call a customer by name.”
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