As we continue our interview series with store owners and managers on the iconic and world-renown shopping street, Rodeo Drive, we sat down with Brooks Brothers General Manager, Jim Jahant, who is also president of the Rodeo Drive Committee, to hear his thoughts.
Jahant shared what it is like to be a part of world-renown premiere luxury-shopping destination for well over a decade, as well as changes that have occurred over that time, the exciting events he has witnessed and the ongoing glitter that defines the location.
How does Rodeo Drive sustain its worldwide glamorous reputation?
Its very location is a magnet for the entertainment industry and the fashion industry. Retailers find themselves on some of the highest price per square foot real estate in Los Angeles County, if not the highest, so clearly it’s a hot spot where people flock to…
It retains its iconic reputation because many of the stores are flagship stores. Quite a few of them, including Brooks Brothers, offer merchandise that is exclusive to the street and therefore not available anywhere in the world or stock merchandise that’s being tested before it is widely distributed to other stores for a specific brand.
Our very active Rodeo Drive Committee is comprised of about 77 store managers who come together, monthly, to plan events. Collectively, store managers evaluate current and past events and their successes; plan new programs/events geared to attracting expanded traffic; and plan and implement media approaches for added visibility. In these meetings, store managers challenge each other to be creative in their thinking and expand their horizons.
Where are your favorite places to shop?
I particularly like the many exquisite jewelry stores. We also have some of the finest women’s stores and definitely some of the finest men’s stores. In reality there isn’t anything you can’t find except a car. We don’t have an automotive dealership, but we have some of the most spectacular cars in the world driving around for all to see!
How has managing a retail store in such a luxurious location influenced your personal style?
It certainly is a challenge to work with such a high level clientele as the customers of Brooks Brothers. It raises the bar for developing lasting relationships. For one thing, we are a classic clothing store, so everything we carry is timeless, but get updated as fashion trends change. I, myself, always wear the latest Brooks Brothers fashion. Everything I own is from the store, so everything I wear is Brooks Brothers, even when I’m not at the store.
Who are your favorite personalities that are Brooks Brothers’ customers?
We are very fortunate, for our customers range from Fortune 500 executives and international leaders to entertainment industry celebrities. We also work very closely with several of the local studios and production companies to provide wardrobes for television shows and movies. Brooks Brothers is responsible for dressing the cast of Mad Men. And, of course, Brooks Brothers did all of the costumes for the male actors in the recent Great Gatsby movie. The female actors were all in Prada and the jewelry was Tiffany & Co. We actually had a collection available for purchase in the store that was inspired by the movie. Additionally, we created a glittery display of all of the costumes from the movie in the store.
What do you foresee in the near future? What about the next five or 10 years?
I absolutely see this premiere luxury shopping destination growing. It will retain its reputation and expand on it. The media enthusiasm has helped our Committee to expand awareness and visibility. As an example, when we do an event, whether it is Concours d’Elegance or Walk of Style or Fashion’s Night Out, we secure millions of press impressions in the global media. This is sustainable and, with added creative events and programs, it should expand. Some sources have quoted retail sales for the street totaling more than $450 million annually, which equates to more than a million dollars in sales each day. With all the expanded programs, this is sure to grow.
What are your proudest accomplishments on the Rodeo Drive Committee?
I must say, the Concours d’Elegance. It’s a car show that we always host on Father’s Day, and it’s without a doubt my favorite event. Last Father’s Day, we had more than 35,000 people attend the event. Brooks Brothers has always been a sponsor of the event and hosts a luncheon for all of the car owners. It’s definitely the big event that I enjoy the most, but that could be because I’m a car buff.
And on a personal side, tell us a bit about being a car buff.
My dream car as a young kid was always a Corvette. I don’t need a Ferrari. I’d just like a polo green convertible Corvette. Currently I drive an S550 Mercedes. I wouldn’t trade it in for a Corvette even if someone offered it to me. Not that I wouldn’t want it, but only as a weekend car — in addition to the Mercedes.
Are any new events planned?
Well, we want to keep the events we currently have fresh and exciting, but we’re also adding new events that appeal to more people. This October for the first time, we held the Festival of Watches. It’ll be a showcase of all the watches that one can buy in our two and a half blocks. It’ll be a spectacular event because we probably have the biggest variety of high-end watches, worldwide.
What event are you most looking forward to in the next year?
It is a philanthropy event we are doing in conjunction with Town and Country magazine in December that should prove to have wide participation. Each of the participating stores will select a charity they wish to benefit, and a portion of their proceeds during a specific time period, will be donated to that charity of choice. Brooks Brothers will be participating and, at this point, we are planning to benefit St. Jude Children’s Hospital.
What is your favorite thing about Luxe Rodeo Drive Hotel?
Location, location, location… When you think about it, there are several hotels near Rodeo Drive or adjacent to the street, but Luxe Rodeo Drive Hotel is right in the center of it all, the only one actually on Rodeo Drive. I also really enjoy the after-work culture at the hotel. It is part of the community, where many resident and visitors alike, stop by after work to just to schmooze, relax and enjoy a drink, appetizer or dinner. I also am impressed that everyone who works at the hotel is so hospitable. From the doorman who opens the door for me even when I’m still a few feet away and greets me by name, to the bartender who starts pouring my drink as I’m sitting down at my table because he knows what I want. It’s a friendly place…
As a final point, Brooks Brothers has encouraged all associates that travel from the East Coast, to stay at the Luxe Rodeo Drive Hotel, and apparently we have heard only raves about their stay, often citing the warmth of the place, the service, the comfort and the convenience — walking distance from “everything.”
When speaking with people traveling to Los Angeles for the first time, what would you tell them to encourage a visit to Rodeo Drive?
I think just using the words “Rodeo Drive” would convince them. When I talk to people in Australia or China or India or Japan, and I mention Rodeo Drive, they immediately know what I’m talking about, and they’re interested. They know the street is in Beverly Hills, but they know its reputation apart from Beverly Hills as well. They have questions about the stores, the fashions and the celebrities that mingle throughout the crowds.
Are there any changes you would like to suggest?
I would actually suggest that it become a pedestrian street. I would like to create an ambiance and culture where people could spend a leisure time just perusing the stores, window-shopping, sipping a wine, enjoying a dessert and making this destination a day- long “affair.”