CHESHIRE — Longtime customers have been returning to Paul's Fine Clothing to thank owner Paul Camerato for almost 42 years of expert advice and purchase their last suits before he retires and closes the doors of his men’s formal wear shop.
“It's a tough decision. The support I'm getting now, I see a lot of people in the store … that makes me feel good. People did appreciate what we did for them over the years,” he said.
Though he doesn’t have a final date for closing yet, Camerato expects to keep the store open at least through February and into March, after which he’s looking forward to spending more time with his six grandchildren and doing some traveling.
“It's a sad moment, but yet I'm excited … I've got six grandchildren, I get to spend more time with them,” he said.
He’s considered retiring a few times before, but the joy he gets from seeing all the customers who have become friends and being able to continue practicing his trade have kept him going. But as more offices embrace jeans over suits, as part of a trend away from formal clothing in many settings, business has been declining and the coronavirus outbreak has reduced the number of occasions people have to bring their best clothes out of the wardrobe.
Aside from carrying quality merchandise, Camerato said his business grew such a loyal clientele by offering the best customer service he could, whether it was rushing orders in time for next-day events or spending the time with someone to find the tie that matched perfectly. And by nature of running a local clothing store, he often ran into his customers at church and around town and they’d give him the satisfaction of opening their jackets to show the “Paul's Fine Clothing” label sewn inside.
Camerato got his start in clothing working for his brother’s store in Hamden, where he honed his retail skills until he decided to branch off and open his own store in 1979.
Paul’s Fine Clothing was among the first businesses to open in The Watch Factory at 112 Elm St. and many of the customers visiting Camerato on Friday said they’re part of a tradition passed down in their family for three generations. While speaking with customers on Friday, Camerato said he had heard so many kind words that he was regretting his decision already.
Hamden resident David Parnoff recently purchased his son’s first adult suit from Paul’s, continuing a tradition he inherited from his step-father 30 years ago. Parnoff now wears Camerato’s suits everyday that he goes to work as an attorney.
“We’re sad that the tradition is going to end,” he said.
Boris Karolicks has been coming to the shop since he moved to Cheshire around 20 years ago and said the closure will be a big loss to the town.
“He has a variety of all styles, from a very elegant style to a style you can use where you’re at work,” Karolicks said.
After nearly 35 years of buying all his suits from Paul’s Fine Clothing, Hamden resident Steve Walsh compared Camerato’s retirement to a good friend moving away.
Though he visited to wish Camerato the best in retirement, Walsh was also tempted to explore one of the more flamboyant pinstripe suits Camerato was always pressuring him to try on. As someone with colorblindness, Walsh has relied on Camerato’s eye for color to select the tie that best matches the suit he’s considering.
“You always get compliments on the suit and ties he puts together … and you’re always greeted with a smile when you come in,” Walsh said.