- Brian Chilson
- NEW TASTES: Rick Maldonado fits a customer.
Nearly a century old, Baumans Fine Men's Clothing has outlived many competitors, and it bests the ones that are still around, according to Arkansas Times voters. It's pricy, but it's good.
"Baumans has been recognized by almost every Arkansas weekly, daily and monthly publication in readers' polls as 'The Best Men's Store' in the state," the Baumans website says. "Additionally, we have been recognized by Esquire magazine as one of the top 100 Men's Specialty Stores for 10 consecutive years and recently were honored by MR. magazine, a national trade publication, as one of the 25 most exciting retail stores in America."
Many of Baumans' longtime, somewhat mature, customers might be surprised by that "exciting" label. Besides the quality of the clothing, they go to Baumans because it's familiar and comfortable. They're not big on surprises. They want pinstripe suits, silk neckties, Allen Edmonds shoes.
But lots of customers of this sort have retired, and don't need as many suits, or have died and need only one.
Now there's a younger group that wants more casual clothing. Baumans meets their needs too, according to its owner, Wayne Ratcliff. "We've had to bend with the times," Ratcliff said. "There's a new customer coming. There always is. But we're not going to abandon the one that brought us to the dance." Baumans offers casual, business and formal wear. It has tailoring too, which is rare these days, Ratcliff said.
Ratcliff joined the Baumans' sales staff in 1973, when the store was 54 years old. The store was founded by Simon Bauman, who had worked for the Blass family. The Blass department store was a fixture on Main Street in Little Rock for many years. Bauman opened his own store downtown after World War I. Since then, there have been several different owners, at several different locations. (And the name has changed as well, from Bauman's to Baumans.)
Baumans has been at its present location (8201 Cantrell Road, in the Pavilion in the Park shopping center) for nearly 20 years. It has a small branch downtown too, in the Capital Hotel. The Capital branch can provide shirts and other items for travelers, Ratcliff said. "But we can accommodate most anything."
Part of Baumans' popularity is that the salesmen and saleswomen seem knowledgeable about men's clothing. That can't always be said of some of Baumans' competitors.