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Jax Daily Record Thursday, Aug. 15, 200212:00 PM EST

Southbank haberdasher a real gem

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by: Monica Chamness

by Monica Chamness

Staff Writer

The clothes make the man, as the saying goes. David Strange, proprietor of Diamond Clothiers, stakes his reputation on it.

Strange has 15 years experience in customized apparel and formed his own company a decade ago. Also referred to as a haberdasher, Strange sizes people up, literally, to ensure a wardrobe tailored specifically to his clients.

“I focus on great service and working with people whose time is very valuable,” said Strange.

Executives, attorneys, doctors, business owners and salesmen dot his client list. With a male-only customer base, Strange carries suits, shirts, shoes and ties.

Strange contends many of his clients have used his services for 10 years or more. Jacksonville is his primary market but his reach extends into 17 states.

“People move and want to continue working with me,” he said. “I do fly to see them but many of my customers are downtown.”

An exact fit and a plethora of options are reasons he cites as to why individuals prefer custom-made suits. His business is based on referrals.

A Jacksonville native, Strange is a graduate of the marketing program at the University of Florida. After learning the specifics of the trade with a national firm, he struck out on his own. Through the business casual days of the 1990s, Diamond Clothiers has held fast.

“We’ve been on a strong growth wave the last four years,” said Strange. “People are returning to purchasing suits and nicer clothes. Most clothing companies are seeing an increase in sales at this point. The trend of dressing down has ended; the importance of dressing up for business is being recognized by almost everyone.”

Strange pursued sales fresh out of college because “that’s where the money is.” Having the freedom to reside anywhere he chooses, while operating a firm capable of a nationwide presence, was paramount to his life’s goals.

“We’re a specialty shop so we try to get products that are unique and different to give our customers a sense of uniqueness and style in his dress,” he said. “Neck tie [sales] are especially strong. I have an exclusive deal with FabergĂ©. They only make 150 ties out of each design, so the customer who purchases a FabergĂ© can be assured they are not going to run into others wearing them.”

The family business — his wife handles the accounting — generates about $1.25 million a year. Currently, he’s planning a move from the Southbank Riverwalk to San Marco.

“I live at the beach but I like working in San Marco because of its proximity to downtown and the rest of the city,” said Strange. “I don’t get a lot of walk-in traffic because I operate by appointment, but it [the Riverwalk] is still a great location. Many customers prefer to come here as it is close to their offices. It’s convenient and the parking here is much better than downtown.”

With downtown revitalization becoming a reality, Strange sees nothing but blue skies ahead.

“All of the continued growth in downtown and San Marco helps my business,” he said. “The Better Jacksonville Plan is certainly aiding small businesses. We’re not a big city yet but we’re getting there.”

With 2,000 customer files, Strange is adding another salesperson, purchasing a building for office space and rebuilding his website, www.customsuit.com.

“Great clothes open all kind of doors,” he said. “There is plenty of competition but people who develop relationships well are generally rewarded with repeat business. A lot of people understand the gist of what we do because this has become more common. Business people are aware they can buy things in their offices now.”

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