Court Square still perfect fit for business
by Clay Neely
Walking into C.S. Toggery feels familiar to me and it probably should. It has been several years since I visited the store, then under the Brothers Ltd. moniker. I knew what I needed and, like anyone else shopping at the venue, I left feeling satisfied and taken care of.
Upon my recent return, I can’t help but take note of the harmonious marriage between the past and the present.
Ian Goldenberg opened C.S. Toggery on Labor Day of 2012; 46 years to the day that the original Brothers Ltd. opened in 1966.
Since then, Ian has worked to carry out his personal goal of merging newer clothing brands with the same, small-town service model his predecessor employed.
“Some things don’t need to change,” states Ian.
Ian is a longtime resident of Newnan. He and his wife, Shay, are graduates of Newnan High School. Ian grew up shopping at Brothers and never enjoyed the experience of large, box-like stores.
After his tenure at West Georgia, Ian went to work for the Nielsen Company and began traveling up and down the Eastern seaboard. During this time, Ian sought local men’s clothing stores that carried the brands he liked while employing the small store mind-set and philosophy Ian had become accustomed to in his hometown.
Ian still enjoyed shopping at Brothers, but was unable to find the latest brands he liked. Ian found himself driving to Atlanta or shopping online in order to procure the designers he preferred.
Then an incident at a national clothing chain store finally pushed Ian into seriously considering opening his own venue.
“They had a sale on pants and they didn’t have my size. The store manager ordered the pants, claiming they would be tailored and ready to wear. When the pants arrived, only one of the three pairs fit,” recalled Ian.
That’s when Ian decided, “I can do better than this.”
From our initial conversation I found Ian to be serious about his clothing. He rattles off the brands and labels that he feels are representative of the current landscape of Southern male fashion. Ian carries brands he is proud to stock on his racks and shelves.
“Vineyard Vines, Southern Tide, Patagonia, Southern Proper, Southern Marsh. I could go on and on,” chuckles Ian.
As his idea gained momentum, Ian began to examine what might be involved in opening his own clothing store. In late December 2011, Ian pitched his idea to former Brothers owner Ellis Mansour, who emphatically supported him and began taking Ian to trade shows.
Ian pitched the idea to his wife as the ultimate test. She was on board. Then came the process of the financing and it seemed that no matter what every step fell into place.
“It finally it came down to a point where it was time to either pull the trigger on the idea or walk away.”
On Labor Day weekend of 2012, Ian opened the doors of C.S. Toggery on Newnan’s East Court Square.
Even without a retail background, Ian felt undaunted.
“I don’t mean this to sound flippant but, to me, it really didn’t matter,” states Ian.
“No matter what field of business you’re engaged in, it’s ultimately about the relationship and communication that you have with your customers, providing quality service along with a quality product.”
And how about running a brand new business with your spouse?
“She’s amazing. If we weren’t married, it would be fantastic,” he chuckles. “But in all seriousness, we balance each other out. She helps me see certain aspects of an issue that I might not have noticed otherwise.”
“At first it was a little hard since neither one of us knew that much about retail. However, once we began applying some the core principles that we learned along the way from our previous work experiences, it all began to balance out well.”
“It’s been fun. I wouldn’t tell anyone not to do it. We complement each other perfectly.”
Is it hard keeping the subject business from coming up on date night?
“Oh, man. Absolutely,” laughs Ian. “We’ve set our rules about not talking business after work, but you’ll inevitably catch yourself talking about some aspect of business. You might notice a nice suit or someone will come up to us and want to talk about this or that. But ultimately we’ve set our boundaries and do our best to stick to them.”
What’s in a name? In “C.S. Toggery,” you will find the keystone of the store’s philosophy.
C.S. is short for Court Square. This is an aspect of Ian’s business that he is emphatic about. For Ian, doing business in downtown Newnan was the only way he could fully envision his store succeeding.
As I looked out of his office window directly to the courthouse across the street, the bell chimed, signaling the top of the hour. Ian just smiled. “To me this is Newnan. If I’m doing business, I want to be on the Square.”
“We could have opened up over in a place like Ashley Park but it wouldn’t have been the same. It might be just as successful, maybe even more, but then you aren’t as involved in the community. You’re just another store, always keeping your eyes peeled on some newer shopping plaza that might be opening. That just wasn’t for me. Downtown will always be here.”
While he understands and respects the fact that his business is currently residing in a rather large shadow of its previous tenant, he seems undaunted.
“It took a while just for the traditional Brothers customers to even come in and give us a chance. I don’t think it was out of resentment. It was just emotional.”
Perhaps many viewed the closure of Brothers as the end of an era and maybe the idea of a new business was still a bit tender. After all, it was a 45-year-old institution.
“I know it’s a terrible analogy, but perhaps it’s akin to being the next coach after Bear Bryant. There was no way his predecessor was ever going to get a fair shake. They may see us and say ‘that’s not Brothers’ — and that’s absolutely true.” But Ian reiterates, “Sure, we’re not going to be Brothers but we’re going to maintain a lot of their values. That’s the foundation of it all. You can forget the clothes, the labels, all of that. What ultimately matters is the same attention to customer service and quality. That’s what makes me happy.”
It’s hard not to feel the enthusiasm Ian has for his new business. The idea that found no resistance or roadblocks along the way and only seemed to beckon Ian to validate his intuition.
While Ian is still employed with Nielsen, it’s crystal clear where he wants to be.
“Sure, a lot of people want to be wildly successful but I really have no grand visions. I just want to be here. I want to simply be a part of the community.”
Upon closing the door onto the Square, I could immediately feel the culmination of all the core, goodwill business philosophies that, for the lucky few, have been able to transcend all the trappings of modern, big-box shopping.
I left the store not only knowing everyone’s name but, more importantly, the simple but true philosophy, more valid than ever: “Some things don’t need to change.”