By  on February 2, 2010

One door closed and another opened for Malouf’s, the 60-year-old fine apparel retailer based in Lubbock, Tex.

The new Malouf’s, a 5,400-square-foot store in Southlake, a wealthy suburb near Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, launched just before the retailer shut its store in Burlingame, Calif., this month after 18 years because of the weak economy and other factors.

The latest unit opened with 65 percent men’s wear, but that is expected to eventually equalize with women’s. Like the 22,000-square-foot parent store in Lubbock, key men’s resources include Zegna, Burberry, Hugo Boss, Robert Graham, Vineyard Vines and Arnold Zimberg. The women’s area is focused on contemporary, bridge, cocktail and denim, featuring Lafayette 148, Ports 1961, Nicole Miller, Phoebe Couture, Rolando Santana, AG Jeans and J Brand plus Ugg and Cole Haan footwear.

John Malouf, the 83-year-old founder of the business who still runs it, said he was attracted to Southlake Town Square because the shopping center functions as the town’s hub, featuring 95 specialty stores, a Hilton Hotel, a multiplex cinema and professional offices surrounding a small lake and gazebo.

Southlake, with a population 25,867, has an estimated household median income of $188,000, according to the U.S. Census. Forbes magazine named it the most affluent neighborhood in the U.S. in December 2008.

“I think [retail] will be very difficult for six more months and then it will start to get better,” Malouf said. He estimated the Southlake store could do $3 million in sales within five years.

“We’ve had some nice traffic, and 80 percent of the people who walked in already knew about us through Texas Tech [University, which is located in Lubbock] or family connections,” he said. “We’re well-known and well-liked, so that is a good sign.”

Malouf’s son, Michael, joined the business last year as president to open and manage the Southlake store. Another son, Sam, who ran the Burlingame unit, sold his interest last year and plans to open his own store in Burlingame in the fall. His brother Scott, launched a women’s lifestyle clothing boutique in October across the street from the original Malouf’s, where he had worked.

“In Burlingame, we couldn’t negotiate a proper rent.…We thought we should be closer to Texas, and we could operate a lot better in that environment,” John Malouf said.

Family businesses, such as Malouf’s, “are difficult,” said Michael Malouf. “It’s complicated because you’re talking employer and employee and parent-child relationships.…I’d like for the company to always have some family element, but there are a lot of people who have worked for us for 17 years, 21 years, and I personally think the family name encompasses people who have devoted large parts of their lives to the store.”

John Malouf has no intention of stepping back.

“To me it’s the same thing an artist would feel about paintings or a musician that composed beautiful music,” he said. “This is my hobby. I enjoy being creative and doing things that people don’t expect and discovering good products and ideas.”

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