Photos Cameron Flaisch
“Clothes make the man.”
First coined by Shakespeare in “Hamlet,” “apparel oft proclaims the man” but later brought back to life by Mark Twain; the phrase rings true even today as what we wear not only affects how others perceive us, but how we perceive ourselves.
Jody Brandon of Woodford Clothing (13 East 3rd Avenue, Rome) zealously represents this concept through his choice of tailored fashion, as well as all throughout the elegantly decorated store named Woodford, which has proved a success in the 11 months that it has been open on Broad Street.
Brandon was born and raised in Cartersville, Ga., and his children attended Darlington, marking him a Roman by association. “I have always loved Rome…the energy and excitement of this small town is immeasurable. I felt the time was right for a new clothing store with a new level of service in Rome,” says Brandon.
He feels the missing piece of the puzzle was Woodford Clothing.
“The idea of Woodford Clothing came about during the summer of 2017,” explains Brandon. “Mary Helen Heaner and Andrew Heaner (who own the business) had always imagined introducing a store rooted in classic clothing and classic service to Rome. So, we got together and decided we would open Woodford Clothing.”
The Heaners then employed Jeff Brooks and Jim Hunter to complete the renovation of the building. Jody designed the plans for the store and Jeff brought them to life. Reformation on the building lasted from May until October of 2017, prompting the opening of Woodford Clothing to take place during the last week of October.
Jody describes how he and the Heaners agreed they would open a classic, traditional men’s and ladies clothing store with classical lines. “From my experience having worked in Atlanta, New York and California, I was very comfortable with this vision,” says Brandon. “Since we have opened, we have been building our brand and clientele.”
As soon as you enter Woodford Clothing’s ornate double-doors, the prodigious feeling of esteem immediately grabs you by the arm and leads you to one of the many shelves holding Woodford’s best. Many ladies (myself included) who enter to browse are drawn to a gorgeous Louis Vuitton duffle bag and a wealth of accessories found on the first floor. Each curious shopper is met by one of Woodford’s knowledgeable representatives who are happy to welcome and serve every customer who comes through the door. It is apparent that the goal is to make their time in the high-end boutique an easy and enjoyable shopping experience.
Brandon brings more than 30 years of experience to Woodford Clothing. Throughout his career, he has worked for top retail stores including Guffey’s of Atlanta, Robert Talbott Company and H. Stockton in Atlanta.
“I graduated from the University of Georgia, and when I finished school, I did not really know what I wanted to do,” explains Brandon. “I had always been interested in clothing, so I came across a wonderful store in Atlanta called Guffey’s of Atlanta. In no time, I had worked myself into a buying position in this small, high-end specialty store. Mr. Don Guffey, who owned the business, sort of took me under his wing. I traveled with him to New York, the Market in Atlanta, etc. and I absolutely loved it.
“After a period of time, I transitioned to H. Stockton in Atlanta and was then hired by the Robert Talbott Company. Mrs. Talbott hired me exclusively to travel to New York and open a Robert Talbott store on Madison Avenue. I went to New York and sat on a five-gallon bucket for six months while the store was being built. I then hired my staff and we accomplished our target level of sales. This is when Mrs. Talbott came to me with another proposition. They had two stores in California that were not doing well, and she wanted me to spend time out there to come up with a business plan to turn the stores around,” recalls Brandon.
“I went to the Carmel/ Monterey, California area to start work in that store, but quickly, my job turned into managing the California and New York operations. I was traveling back and forth from coast to coast. It was a lot, but I learned a lot,” says Brandon.
Shortly after Jody’s stint of travel from Cali to New York, his wife, DeLean, found out she was pregnant with their first child, which urged them to make the move back to Cartersville in order to truly settle down. “Once we got back, I knew I wanted to open two retail stores, one in Rome and one in Cartersville. We started with one store in Cartersville called J. Brandon Clothiers,” says Brandon.
J. Brandon Clothiers successfully operated for six years until the closing of the store in the spring of 2004—encouraging Jody to explore another one of his loves in life, interior design. Jody ran an interior design firm until 2017 when he jumped, head first, into Woodford Clothing with the Heaners after working on an interior design project for them.
“When Mary Helen shared her idea of opening a higher-end clothing store, I jumped at the chance. I love the clothing business. This was just a great opportunity all around and Rome is a great town for it,” smiles Brandon.
Woodford Clothing is characterized by the many who shop there as a “one-of-a-kind” store and shopping experience. Perhaps that is because Jody Brandon himself is one-of-a-kind, with some great stories.
“One rainy morning in New York, I had gotten to the store early, and I had noticed that this black Cadillac limousine had pulled up out front of the store. The chauffeur got out and buzzed in asking, ‘Are you open for business?’ I said sure, why not? He opened the back door of the Cadillac and out slid Johnny Cash. He asked me for six bow ties, all of them black,” laughs Brandon.
“During another afternoon, there were three of us working and the store was packed. All of a sudden, what once was a bustling store, completely stood still. Mick Jagger had walked in. He bought half-a-dozen sport shirts. He was the nicest guy.”
Woodford’s clothing expert recalls these stories and one common element is part of each and every one: one-of-a-kind service plays a role in developing loyal clientele.
He has carried these fundamentals of customer service to Woodford Clothing and their commitment to service is evident in the services the store offers. Tailoring, alterations, gift wrapping and gift services, as well as engraving and monogramming are all part of Woodford’s basic services. Brandon, his wife DeLean and Jennifer Moore work as styling consultants, and will provide wardrobing and styling services in home or in store for customers.
“One of the things I am very particular about, which comes from working in New York City, Atlanta and California, is customer service. At Woodford Clothing, we go to the ends to take care of all of our customer’s needs with pleasure. Whatever you need, we are here,” says Brandon. “A gentleman here in town was getting ready to go to Europe on a trip and at the last minute, he noticed that he needed a tuxedo shirt. We were able to get it overnighted and delivered to him before he left the next day. We want all of our customers here in Rome to experience that kind of service,” says Brandon.
Woodford Clothing also prefers to keep small collections in store; “We do a great business with small designers like Emerson Fry and J Brand Jeans, as well as some higher end brands like Lafayette 148,” explains Brandon. “Of course, you can never go wrong with a white blouse and a cashmere sweater. Also, you always need a black dress and we have plenty to choose from here at Woodford Clothing,” smiles Brandon. “We use our expertise and connections to bring exclusive, curated brands to our customers in Rome, so they can have great clothes without leaving town or ‘guess shopping’ online.”
One can see while browsing at Woodford that Brandon finds a lot of inspiration in Ralph Lauren and his lines. “They are a classic clothing company, always has been,” says Brandon. “Ralph Lauren’s style and his fashion are timeless, which is how I would describe our clothes here at Woodford.”
At the top of the steps to the ladies’ department, customers are greeted with three statement photographs of Audrey Hepburn, Jaclyn Kennedy and Grace Kelly. These women serve as Brandon’s fashion icons.
“Our men’s business stays more classic, but our women’s offerings are changing in order to stay up-to-date with the market. We read all fashion magazines, from Elle to Cigar Aficionado and others. We also regularly spend time in New York twice a year to explore the fashion world,” says Brandon.
Although, he doesn’t mind staying on top of the fashion world—in fact, it is his passion.
“Mrs. Talbott taught me so much… not hands-on, but by giving me the freedom to develop and to offer customers what they wanted. I feel as if that has given me the confidence and ability to run Woodford Clothing and make the business successful,” Brandon explains.
Where Woodford Clothing is indeed successful, that has not stopped Brandon’s will to continue succeeding and developing ways to make his customers happy. “One of the overall goals for us is to expand our shopping experience to include e-commerce within the next year,” says Brandon.
There is no doubt that the quality of clothing, as well as the quality of people, makes Woodford Clothing an amazing addition to the fashion and shopping experience in Rome.
If you don’t believe me, just go and take a peak for yourself. But save a Louis Vuitton duffle bag for me.