Jerry Buti of Go Young Fashion in downtown Hattiesburg came to America chasing an education and wealth. He’s done pretty well for himself.
This year his downtown business celebrates 40 years of serving men of all ages, sizes and ethnicities. He was asked one time why he didn’t carry women’s clothing. “Because what women put on they look good; men tend to be a little slobby,” he said.
Buti, who hails from Bethlehem, the Palestinian town south of Jerusalem on the West Bank, earned his Masters of Business Administration from Jackson State University in 1978. While in school, Buti had worked in men’s clothing daily from 9 a.m.-5:30 p.m. before heading out for night classes.
With his degree in hand, he knew he wanted to start a men’s fashion business.
Wanting to separate himself from the Jackson area, which was polluted with competition, Buti looked southward and found Hattiesburg, where he opened for business in 1979 with a $9,000 loan from a friend up north. He had people offering him a lot of money to come work for them or even set him up in his own store, but that’s not what he wanted.
When Buti purchased the building at the corner of Pine and Mobile, he had a lot of neighbors downtown – Fine Brothers, the Diamond Shoppe, Woolworth and others.
He named the business Go Young Fashion after a company in Florida known for its fancy - very fancy - shirts.
“I liked their name and decided to give that name to my business and carry my own brand of fancy,” Buti said. Generations of families have grown up with the business.
Nine years later, in 1988, he opened a store in the old Cloverleaf Mall called Signature. He explained the merchandise in the mall required a higher standard, so her purchased his merchandise from the Las Vegas Market. The business was open for three years. When Turtle Creek Mall opened, they tried to get Buti on board. He admits to not being a mall guy who had to keep regular store hours seven days a week, but rather a downtown kind of businessman.
“I don’t have to work 7 days or 70 hours a week,” he said.
For those wondering, there are two other Go Young Fashion stores in the Greater Pine Belt area – one on 40th Avenue owned by Buti’s brother, a Mississippi State graduate, which has been open for about 10 years, and another in downtown Columbia, owned by another brother, an Alabama grad, which has been a part of the Main Street landscape for 23 years. Buti said each of the businesses has its own unique style and clientele.
The 40th Avenue store is known for its alterations business – everything from bridesmaids and prom dresses to men’s slacks and jackets – and they also rent tuxedoes.
The brothers have a working relationship, but each has his own family of clients.
Buti believes in service and quality and learned reinventing yourself is a necessity. He feels you need to always get something new.
“I took a risk with it,” he said. “And don’t expect to get rich the first year, or the second or third.”
He is of the opinion that variety, not necessarily quantity, is the key to his business.
Buti has noticed since his opening 40 years ago that the sizes have gradually increased.
He explained that when purchasing pants in the latter part of the ‘80s he purchased a size 28-38 package, then by the end of the ‘80s that new package was created, up to 40-54; in the mid 90s, up to 60; and at the end of the ‘90s and the early 2000s, sizes were up to infinity.
“We go up to size 86,” he said. “In the ‘80s I could not find a big size of pants in the United States.” There was a company in that carried sizes up to 60, which he ordered, noting they weren’t cheap.
His extreme variety of sizes helps him cater to a variety of men across the area.
The businesses carries jeans and suits up to size 80, dress pants up to 72, T-shirts to size 10X, dress shirts with a 26-inch neck and dress shoes up to size 17. And he always keeps sizes in stock.
Buti does his own alterations or calls his better half down to help. Behind the front counter is a sewing machine, a variety of colorful threads and even an iron, its light blinking red.
He learned to sew himself.
“The trade makes you learn,” he said. While alterations on clothes purchased at the business are free, Buti sends customers across town to his brother for bigger, more complicated alteration jobs.
The Stacy Adams brand, known by the older generation, is a go-to for the business and very convenient for Buti to work with. He has attended markets in New York, Dallas and even Jackson to make selections for the store.
Prom season is also a busy time for year for Buti, with teens coming in with exact details of what they want from things they’ve seen on their phones.
“Give me a break,” he tells them, always providing something very similar. He said now they are looking for extremely skinny leg pants and tight-fitting jackets.
In his line of work, Buti understands that different ethnicities, whether Caucasian, African American or Hispanic, each require a different style in suits, jackets and pants. He tries to meet all their fashion needs.
He dresses a lot of mature people for special events with sequined and brocade-patterned sports coats, which he says he sells for at least $100 cheaper than anyone around. The store features a display set up featuring four vignettes – a University of Southern Mississippi jacket in gold paired with black slacks, a white shirt and appropriate tie; a maroon sport coat with the same type accessories for the MSU crowd, as well as royal blue and red sports jackets for Ole Miss and other fans.
There are pants, shirts and suits for every occasion. And ties in every color of the rainbow, whether a standard tie or a bowtie. And he even carries sequined bowties. There’s also canes, and a variety of hats – from Godfather styles to crushables and even kangaroo caps.
Buti stays tuned into fashions via watching television, whether the news or a show with a host.
“I watch TV and look at the styles,” he said. “We’re not trying to copy, but know what people are going to come in and ask for.”
These days it’s Hollywood’s Steve Harvey, and Go Young doesn’t disappoint with a line of suits under Harvey’s name and brand, complete with his signature. There’s even one or two in the store window.
Suits are his best sellers. “We sell more of them than anything else,” he said. “The quality speaks for itself.”
Buti said some men still have their suits more than 25 years later. And if the customer grows or shrinks, Buti is there to alter it for a more comfortable fit.
After years in the business, Buti is able to lead a customer to the appropriate size without even asking. “You just know,” he said after fitting so many through the years.
He feels it’s important not to push customers, but to have good contact with them.
He’s not sure about the next generation of the business. One son is studying to be a doctor and the other is currently a USM student.
As customers enter the door, Buti greets them and carries them to what they are looking for, waiting patiently as they try on something or making other recommendations. And if he doesn’t have a color or size available, which is rare, you can be sure that within a couple of weeks you’ll be set.
“You have to be aggressive and love what you do, be more creative,” Buti said. And like the old television commercial said, “I love this business!”