As Father’s Day approaches, who better to feature in our Visionaries series than the owners of a successful family business? Ken and Jim Giddon are the brothers behind Rothmans, the independent menswear boutique that operates in NYC, Scarsdale, and Bronxville. In addition to being proud dads (Ken is father to 26-year-old twins Kyle and Amanda, plus 21-year-old Will; Jim has 18-year-old Alexandra and 17-year-old Brooke), the brothers successfully reinvented their grandfather’s discount store, which first opened in 1926 on Union Square from a pushcart on the Lower East Side.

When Ken arrived in New York from Boston in 1986 to help liquidate his grandfather Harry Rothman’s store, he did a 180 and decided to reopen it in a different location. Jim came on board and the two continued Rothmans’ evolution, transforming it into the place for men to buy a suit in NYC. Today, the Manhattan store is housed in a handsome early 20th century building on 18th Street and Park Avenue South. Along with the suits, you’ll also find casualwear and sportswear from an array of labels, and a regular in-store pop-up, which has included the ZACHARY PRELL collection.

We met the brothers at their NYC store to talk style, running a family business, and favorite Father’s Day gifts.

Ken, when you came to New York to close your grandfather’s business, can you remember the moment you decided it still had potential as a contemporary menswear store?

I had just put down my deposit to attend business school at MIT. Yet, I was fascinated by this business that my grandfather had created and was now closing. I thought, this challenge is the best business school possible. Why not give it a shot to make something happen with this venerable, albeit dated, store concept?

Jim, you joined the business soon after in a temporary summer job. What made you stay?

I was fresh out of school, and figured Rothmans would be a great place to start working to pay bills while I contemplated law school or a Wall Street career. It didn’t take long for me to catch the retail bug. The excitement of meeting new customers every day, and never knowing who would walk in next, was entertaining. Soon after, a buying / managerial spot opened up, and Ken asked me to stay. Almost 30 years later, I’m still contemplating!

What do you think are the most important changes you’ve put in place to ensure Rothmans’ success?

KG: We never take ourselves too seriously or believe that we have all the answers. Thus we embrace change. To paraphrase the famous philosopher, Wayne Gretsky, we don’t go where the puck is ... we try to go where the puck is going to be!

What do you imagine your grandfather would think of you keeping the store open as a family business?

KG: Hard to say. He was forced to get a job at age 12 to support the family, so he cherished education. He always said: “No kid of mine should go into this business. Be a doctor or lawyer.” Nevertheless, he might be pretty happy to see a big thriving NYC store with his name on it. At least we hope so. He passed away before I decided to bring the name back.

JG: I like to think Harry Rothman would be thrilled that his name and legacy have continued to thrive in NYC. We use his inspiration daily to make decisions at Rothmans. A family business decision is not always about the numbers. It starts with family, the employees, and then the customers. We aim to make Harry Rothman proud every day.

Since it’s Father’s Day soon, and you both have grown-up kids, can you each think of a Father’s Day gift you’ve received that felt extra special?

KG: I have three grown kids. I speak to each of them almost every day. That is the best gift! Especially if they think that I still have something of value to say. In terms of material things, I love when they get me something to wear. As you can imagine, it is a challenge to get me something.

JG: My favorite Father’s Day gift is when I simply get the luxury of spending quality time with my daughters. One Father’s Day in particular involved going on a hike with them upstate. Just being able to walk, talk, and laugh without having to run off to an activity was amazing.

What do you wear to work each day?

KG: The easiest question. Black t-shirt and jeans. When it is cold I add a hoodie. As my daughter would say, it’s my “brand.”

JG: Ken and I always dress differently from each other. We try to show the different looks that we offer at Rothmans. You will always find me in a jacket (suit or sport coat). I believe in dressing up for work. I’ve always thought that maintaining a certain dressing standard shows respect for the job.

Ken, you wore ZACHARY PRELL’s Caruth shirt, the Catalpa shorts, and the Dockery shirt. Jim you tried the Shaia shirt, the Caldwell polo, and the Aster pants. What did you both think and where would you wear those pieces?

KG: The outfits I wore for the shoot were awesome. I loved the stretch in all of the fabrics. Felt as comfortable as my normal uniform. I wore the Caruth for an event I had to speak at the following night.

JG: I loved wearing the Shaia shirt for the shoot, even thought it’s just outside of my comfort zone. I can’t wait to wear it again. ZP has amazing taste in fabrics and patterns. The product appeals to almost everyone, and has a unique way of making the regular guy feel like he is dressing cool and fun.

June 17, 2019 — Caroline Danehy