August 03, 2015

Vineyard Vines Outgrows Oak Hall Base

By David Flaum
– The Commercial Appeal –

Vineyard vines have crawled all over the Oak Hall store in East Memphis.

So much so that vineyard vines — the Stamford, Conn.-based bright-colored, preppy clothing business — and the old-line Memphis apparel store are transplanting the vines to their own garden, a store in Regalia Center set to open by early next year.

"When we first started carrying the line, they just sold neckware," said Bill Levy, co-owner of Oak Hall.

Indeed, brothers Ian and Shep Murray started the business by selling ties they designed out of the trunk of their car in 1998.

As their products expanded, first to men’s wear, then to women’s and children’s clothing, Levy said, "It became the fastest-growing line in our store for the past three or four years."

The Oak Hall store isn’t large enough to carry more than a sampling of the women’s apparel or any of the children’s goods, he said.

So the Levy family and the Murrays agreed to open a separate vineyard vines store as a joint venture. That, and a similar store being built in Florida, will be the retailer’s first outside of New England.

The store — it will come complete with a sailboat remade as a customer service desk — will include all of vineyard vines lines. Oak Hall will continue carrying the men’s goods, Levy said.

Some vineyard vines goods such as ties and boxer shorts are also on sale at The Peabody.

Ian Murray believes the store will do well.

"We’ve been extremely well received (in Memphis)," he said.

Although the market "is on the way to being saturated," for high-end apparel, there is still a market here for stores like vineyard vines, said Carol Bendall, owner of Fashion Academy, which trains image consultants.

Some Mid-Southerners shop in Atlanta or Dallas for such merchandise, she said.

"Now we can bring some of this money home," Bendall said.

In addition to the products sold at Oak Hall, vineyard vines offers licensed college apparel, sold mostly in campus stores, including Ole Miss, Arkansas, Alabama, Tennessee, Vanderbilt and Mississippi State. Those items may go into the mix in the Memphis store, Murray said.

The Levy family was also an attraction, he said.

"We absolutely adore the guys at Oak Hall," he said. "We’ve done business with them for a number of years and they’ve become like family to us."

Plus, he and his brother look for partners with staying power — like the Levy family and predecessors’ 148 years in the business, Murray said.