Former employee assumes ownership of men's clothing store Jackson & Connor in Northampton

Last modified: Wednesday, December 04, 2013

NORTHAMPTON — William Brideau, the new owner of the mens’s clothing store Jackson & Connor, remembers well his first suit (which he happened to purchase at Jackson & Connor.)

“I was checking out somewhere, and the cashier said, ‘Did you find everything ok, sir?’ I did a double take and turned around to see if she was talking to anyone else behind me. It was the first time anyone had called me sir,” he recalled in a recent interview. “You feel differently about yourself and people treat you differently when you’re dressed a certain way.”

Brideau, the 6-year-old shop’s first hired hand assumed ownership of the specialty men’s clothing boutique Nov. 8.

Before his employment at the shop, Brideau admits that his understanding of style wasn’t exactly comprehensive, but that’s changed.

“I’m a bit of a clotheshorse now,” he said. Working at the store has not only taught Brideau about style, but roused his passion for dressing well and helping others to learn how.

It is with that sensibility that Brideau, who’s worked at the store since 2010, takes over.

Brideau says loyal customers of the specialty menswear store on the second floor of Thornes Marketplace, can rest easy. Though the store officially changed hands, alterations to the way the store operates won’t be drastic.

As new owner, Brideau, 28, will be working with its former co-owner and founder Tara Brewster, will be working at the store as a retail consultant. There are no other employees.

“I couldn’t wish for a better owner for the store,” Brewster said. “Will was always there when we needed him.”

When Jackson & Connor opened, Brewster, 34, never imagined that her role would change from ownership to employment, or that the change would happen at a better time for all involved.

“It worked out perfectly,” Brewster said of the switch. When business partner Candice Connors decided to pursue a career with telecommunications company 5LINX, Brewster began considering options such as selling the store or running it on her own. But having just had her first child in April, she was hoping for a solution that allowed her some flexibility.

Brideau approached his employers with his interest in owning the business, and after working out the details, the decision was made.

“Selling the store to me allowed them more flexibility, and it allowed me to continue to do what I really love doing, which is working at Jackson & Connor and working in menswear. I have a real zeal for it,” said Brideau of the transaction and his newly acquired livelihood.

He declined to reveal the sale price.

Brewster, whose daughter is now 7 months old, has signed a contract to work 40 hours a week for the next four months at Jackson & Connor to help ensure that the transition goes smoothly.

“We’re playing it by ear to see what works for everyone,” says Brideau regarding how long Brewster will continue to work at the shop.

Because the change is so recent, Brewster is still getting used to her change in role.

“It’s a mind-switch,” she said. “I’m trying not to call all the shots.”

Regarding working for her former employee, Brewster has no qualms at all.

I feel really good about it. Will and I have a great relationship,” she said. “You should always be nice to people. You never know when the tables are going to turn.”

Brideau has previously worked in town as a line cook at Sylvester’s, an associate at Ben & Bill’s Chocolate Emporium, and at Impish, a baby goods store next door to Jackson & Connor. After being laid off three years ago, he obtained the job at Jackson & Connor through persistence in applying to the store. After asking about a position several times, Brewster and Connors finally asked Brideau to come on board as their first official employee. Brewster met Candace Connors, her business partner, when they worked together at another mens’ specialty store. The two decided to go into business together in western Massachusetts area, and weathered the opening of Jackson & Connor in 2008, the beginning of the country’s financial disaster.

“Tara and Candace made a pretty phenomenal go of it at a really unpleasant time in our economy — things have definitely improved since then,” he said.

As for the store’s mission, it is this: “We offer great products, tailoring services, made-to-measure services, personal styling,” said Brideau. “We work with people on a one on one basis.”

Brideau places importance on teaching customers how to match items and care for clothing. The store offers a range of clothing as well as accessories from watches to wool fedoras, and an extensive selection of ties.

“Everything from T-shirts and jeans to sweaters and sportscoats,” says the new shopowner.


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