Harrison Unlimited.

The Art of the Men's Shop Lives on in Alabama.

Harrison Limited isn’t like other stores. Actually, it is like other stores, just not ones that really exist anymore. To say it is from another generation is over simplifying things. The store is unique in the simplest and most powerful ways. Let me back up a second before I explain what I think makes it so special. And it is absolutely special.

To have a successful specialty store you need to do a lot of things well. You need to have the right product to sell to the right customers. You have to make sure that you get enough traffic to generate enough sales. You also need to know what to buy to make sure your store has the right point of view and enough merchandise to generate enough sales to pay the staff, buy inventory and ultimately make a profit. Having a point of view —knowing the coolest brands to stock— is important, but not anywhere near as crucial as being a good merchant, selling the right product at the right time and focusing on service. This is what so many store owners seem to miss. Being someone who likes to shop has very little to do with running a successful retail operation. 

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Retail is pretty much an insane business. It revolves around seasonal outlays of massive amounts of money (to buy new inventory), which then, if you’re lucky comes back in tiny pieces. You have to pay attention to all of the little details, make sure to have the right product for the customers and hope people are there to buy. If the rent is too high or you have the wrong assortment or people aren’t coming in to shop you’re going to be in trouble. I don’t think people realize how hard it is to have a successful and profitable specialty store in this day and age. It’s an underappreciated business. To me it’s an art form. That’s why if I see something I want to buy in a little specialty store, I make a point to purchase it there and not somewhere online. Convenience be damned; I value that retailer and that experience and want to help preserve it.

All of the challenging factors I mentioned above are exactly what makes Harrison Limited so special and so good at what they do. The shop has an excellent assortment, the staff is knowledgeable and the merchants know what they are doing. Most significantly, the service is beyond exceptional. That sounds like I am blowing smoke, but it’s true. I’ve spent a lot of time in retail stores and very rarely do I encounter the brilliance of a shop like Harrison Limited. I spent about five hours visiting and while I was there (potentially) covering the shop for ACL and I noticed that all of the Harrison guys working that day knew everything about everyone that set foot in the shop. It was incredible. I know Mountain Brook is a fairly small town, but what I was seeing was not just based on knowing the people in a little community. Harrison Limited made sure everyone that came in had a pleasant experience. It’s sort of sad to say, but I don’t think I have ever seen anything like it anywhere else. You know when big retailers want places to “feel like a club”, well what’s going on at Harrison Limited is what they are trying to create.

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I’ve followed Harrison Limited online for a few years, even before it had a real online shop. At one point I called and placed an actual phone order. I loved the hat & chair logo, the brands it sells and the overall aesthetic. Things were admittedly become a bit strange; I was becoming obsessed with a store I had never visited. Time passed and eventually I saw my opportunity to see Harrison Limited first hand. I had a business trip to Atlanta scheduled and I figured this was the perfect time to make the drive over to Birmingham. I emailed Scott Pyburn — Harrison Limited’s owner— to make sure he was going to be in town. Previously, Scott and I had struck up a small conversation over email after a few small mentions of Harrison Limited on ACL. He was always extremely kind and gracious. I had followed this store for years and here was my chance to meet everyone and finally shop it in real life.

Situations like this are almost always when my expectations come up short. It’s like when people meet me in real life —expecting me to be some menswear caricature like those people on Instagram who have profiles that are 99% comprised of pictures of themselves— and are disappointed when I’m a normal person who happens to be interested in talking on the internet about watches and menswear. I had built up Harrison Limited in my head so much that I was actually a little bit afraid of going to see it in real life. If I didn’t ever visit, Harrison Limited would, in my mind, continue to be a truly incredible store. If I went and didn’t like it, it would be ruined. But they sell so much good stuff and the people there are so nice, how could it be bad? That’s what I said as I drove West on Interstate 20. How could it be bad?

After spending much of the day hanging out, chatting, browsing and getting to know everyone I realized Harrison Limited was as excellent as I hoped it would be. It’s nice when something exceeds your expectations like Harrison Limited did for me. Not only does the shop have a great selection of classic menswear (much of it made in the U.S.A.), Harrison Limited also has the service and personal touch that is basically non-existent in the world at this point. Like my beloved Cuffs in Chagrin Falls, Harrison Limited is a very special place that deserves all of the praise it gets. And when the guys at the shop Mountain Brook read this they’ll probably just shrug it off with humility and get back to helping their customers like they always do.

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Comments on “Harrison Unlimited.

    Gregon November 30, 2015 @ 7:14 PM:

    Nice assortment of men’s clothing and accessories … I need to update my wardrobe soon!

    Wes wpon December 1, 2015 @ 9:41 AM:

    I love stores like this one. I have the same reverence (as the author does) for places like Cuffs. At the same time, this post is 98% fluff (a non-narrative that doesn’t go anywhere), and 2% substance. I would have liked specifics about your relationship with this store – the pieces you enjoy, and the interactions you’ve had. I would have liked a play-by-play of the actual in-store experience, as opposed to a long-winded build up that seemed like ingratiation – and little else.

    Michael Williamson December 1, 2015 @ 10:30 AM:

    @Wes Because me talking about the cashmere sweater I bought there is hard hitting analysis – right? Right.

    Wes wpon December 1, 2015 @ 10:37 AM:

    Mr. Williams – Obviously I follow what you do closely. I’ve enjoyed learning about stores that would otherwise be off my radar (both ideologically and geographically) – that includes Cuffs, Harrison Unlimited, The Armoury NYC, etc. I just expect more from such an esteemed blogger. I expect commentary, and a thoughtful narrative that rises above mere advertisement.

    Michael Williamson December 1, 2015 @ 10:46 AM:

    @Wes — thanks for the backhanded compliment. It’s an advertisement for a store that’s flying under the radar and I’m sure can benefit from a bit of a gushing review. It’s not like they gave me anything. I paid for my sweater, thank you. So I think you are just being a little cynical and overly critical. What’s more to give here anyway? It’s a men’s clothing store after all. I’m not saying it’s the definitive place to buy clothing because that would probably not be true for everyone. Like anything else, I’m saying that this place is worth checking out. Then you can figure out on your own if you agree. Ok? Good talk.

    Wes wpon December 1, 2015 @ 11:01 AM:

    Michael – I think the people can judge your profile for themselves. I am not condescending “at” or “to” you – as you are to me. I am asking you to do better – given that you can. Not sure how that’s a backhanded compliment. Thanks for engaging with me.

    Michael Williamson December 1, 2015 @ 11:10 AM:

    @wes This is basically how I have covered retail since I started the site. I don’t think I have ever given any true analysis. Maybe you are confusing me with someone else.

    Alexander Conroyon December 1, 2015 @ 11:19 AM:

    Michael,

    I have to say that I am disappointed at your response to Wes. It seems as if you took what was meant to be a thoughtful critique of your write up on Harrison Limited personally. I also think his analysis of your write up is spot on. Day after day, I come to ACL for a diligent investigation into the clothing you admire. Today, I am leaving with a less than flattering impression of what you are doing here and how you treat your readers.

    your loyal reader,

    Alex

    Michael Williamson December 1, 2015 @ 11:32 AM:

    @Alexander It was only a matter of time before you left with an unflattering impression. Sometimes I take things personally, if you really have read this site long enough you might have known that.

    But this is what I felt like writing about Harrison Limited. It’s too bad it wasn’t the story that you and Wes wanted. Maybe if you went to HL you would feel differently about what I said. Maybe it doesn’t need a diligent discussion. Maybe it needed, “trust me, you’re gonna love this place.”

    Mr Brownon December 1, 2015 @ 3:39 PM:

    Get your own site lads. No one frog marches you here. No one made you a promise. You take or you leave it. Disappointed. Could do better..? What are you going to do; cancel your subscription? Do me a favour.

    Scotton December 2, 2015 @ 6:21 PM:

    Harrison LTD is a great store and the guys are topnotch. I enjoy going in there when I’m in B’ham. If you ever find yourself in Montgomery, AL, visit The Locker Room. It’s equally as good just on a (slightly larger scale).

    Ryan Stansburyon December 2, 2015 @ 7:29 PM:

    Thanks for sharing. It’s stores like this one that I dream of stumbling upon. One day it’ll happen, and until then I’ll continue noting shops I learn about thanks to posts like this one. To me, this piece reads just like a friend telling me about a great shop he just found. I don’t need an inventory list, I don’t need details on pricing, all I need is to know it’s a good place to go with good people and good product. If you have that, the rest’ll sort itself out.

    Tom Coffmanon December 2, 2015 @ 10:14 PM:

    Thanks for the posting Michael. Wonderful to see such stores succeeding in our current/modern economy.

    Eddie Fargison December 3, 2015 @ 8:45 AM:

    What a great write up on a great store!! It is a shame that stores like Harrison’s have fallen by the wayside. I look forward to my visit…by the way St. Paul and the Broken Bones even played in the store!! Harrison’s keep up the good work!!

    Nateon December 3, 2015 @ 10:15 AM:

    Michael,
    You’re doing a great job. I’ll admit that sometimes, I only have a few minutes, so I just take a look at the pictures and fantasize about being able to go down and possibly afford buying some of the items at the stores you show. I always take your site as good inspiration for upping my appearance or experiences, when others might not take the time to do so. Don’t let the negative comments get you down.

    KRHon December 3, 2015 @ 12:13 PM:

    Reminds me of the days when I worked at the Georgetown University Shop in Washington, DC in the 1990’s. Good Times!!!!!!

    Jason Pyleon December 4, 2015 @ 7:53 AM:

    Michael, great post about what looks like an awesome shop. Living in Franklin, TN, Harrison Limited is only about 3 hours away, so I need to make the trip.

    I am not sure if you’ve ever heard of Wm. King Clothiers in Bristol, TN. It’s a fantastic clothing store rooted in men’s clothing, but also women’s as well now. My first job in high school was at Wm. King, and I worked at the store all through high school, and every holiday/summer off when I was in college. As a business owner today, I owe a great deal of any small amount of people skills I possess (and making folks comfortable) to my time working at Wm. King. I learned life skills and so much more there.

    As you described your experience at Harrison, the small town, the fact that every face that entered the place was familiar, a place to grab a bourbon and chat and look great doing it. My mind was taken back to my time at Wm. King. The images you included as well are so similar, different to a degree, but quite familiar.

    Anyways, thanks for the great spotlight on what looks like an awesome shop. Hopefully posts like this turn peoples attention towards Harrison, and also stores like Wm. King. The truth is every area, particularly here in the Southeast, have great shops like this. J. Michaels in Nashville, H. Stockton in Atlanta, etc. Let’s keep them in business in a very very tough industry.

    Thanks again,

    Harriet Wordon December 5, 2015 @ 9:33 AM:

    I of course cannot shop at Harrisons, but would love to have the opportunity. Every time I am in the store with my husband i urge Scott to add a womens side to the store. Great guys here. Its like going to the coffee shop. You see everyone you know there. My husband shops there and we’ve shopped for our sons there as well. We live in the neighborhood so its our go to shop for stylish clothing for men. Check it out

    Jameson December 7, 2015 @ 2:24 PM:

    The owner sporting the bow tie resembles George Will.

    JDeanon December 9, 2015 @ 1:24 PM:

    @Wes/Alexander/Anyone Else- There was analysis in this piece. Most importantly and simply it was regarding what it takes to be a great retailer. I think that insight is extremely void in the #menswear market that has developed from trail blazers like ACL. Retail done properly is an art form, and dying a slow death that started with the department store takeover, and then the too cool for school luxury fashion boutiques. Maybe you haven’t experienced really phenomenal service in today’s retail market, but if you had you would understand what this piece is about… A bygone era that several out of thousands are still keeping alive. Sure shopping online is great because we have access to items not normally found, allowing exposure to brands not normally heard of, but the physical retail theater relationship where it’s not about an act, or selling something, but professional friends linking the right product with the right product is an actual experience rather than just an acquisition. It’s hard when Blogs go to sponsorship and you have to read between what is “fluff” and not, but talent has to get paid and ACL clearly labels posts. This is just a hallmark to the retail community that actually know what this business is about and loves the sincerity of the real and original business versus this piracy of authenticity from the majority of what now represents the menswear marketplace.

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