by Katherine Boccaccio
The story of Hy’s Toggery has been in the making for nearly half a century. What began in 1969 as a move by company founder Hy Wakstein to establish his own high-end menswear operation after 20-plus years in the industry would ultimately become a brand that has matured into one of the most respected independent clothiers in the southeast.
The retailer’s Panama City Beach, Florida, location is the oldest family-owned clothing store in Bay County. Over the years, Hy’s moved from evolved from suits and ties to sportswear, but what has remained constant is a business built on outstanding customer service and a collection of popular brands such as Columbia Sportswear, Patagonia, Guy Harvey, The North Face, and Tommy Bahama.
According to the founder’s son Gary Wakstein, who worked alongside his father for decades before his passing in 2013, offering those brands was a conscious and strategic decision. “My family recognized a long time ago that if we give people what they want, we won’t have to sell them anything. They’ll line up to buy great products,” Wakstein said.
Hy’s merchandising strategy is to offer a wide selection of sizes, styles, and colors within a select group of prominent brands. “We work hard to heighten the visual impact of that selection with store lighting designed to bring colors and textures to life,” noted Wakstein. “The store feels alive and exciting when you walk in, and it engages the customer and triggers their senses.”
Such commitment to suppliers has won Hy’s a seat at the product development table with many vendors. Hy’s Toggery execs meet annually with brand design and merchandising teams, inspecting prototypes and entering into the discussion on colors and styles. The retailer’s close relationship with the products it sells pays off in special ways. Hy’s is one of the top five sellers of YETI coolers and cups in the southeast, for instance, even though it has but one location.
That’s about to change. Hy’s Toggery recently signed on as one of the charter tenants at One Daytona in Daytona Beach, Florida. The $120 million-plus mixed-use project is under construction alongside the International Speedway—itself the beneficiary of a recent $400 million redevelopment. Hy’s will join a list of first-to-market tenants that include Bass Pro Shops, Cobb Theatres, P.F. Chang’s, Kilwins, Tervis, IT’SUGAR, Jeremiah’s Italian Ice, Guitar Center, and Venetian Nail Spa.
The store’s first foray outside of Panama City will be a 12,000-sq.-ft. space on the ground floor of a 144-room Marriott Autograph Collection hotel called The Daytona, which is on track to take part in One Daytona’s planned 2017 grand opening. The project is being developed by International Speedway Corporation (ISC) in conjunction with Pennsylvania-based Shaner Hotel Group and Florida hotelier Prime Hospitality Group.
Hy’s Toggery will be part of a 300,000-square-foot retail, dining, and entertainment district in a project designed to provide Daytona Beach with the social and commercial centerpiece it has lacked. “One Daytona appealed to us immediately,” says Wakstein. “It’s the right project in the right market: a true destination that will give 9 million annual visitors a place to shop, eat, play and stay.”
Wakstein foresees the location as a gathering place for local residents, as well. “I believe One Daytona will become downtown Daytona Beach, where schools and community organizations come to hold celebrations and special events.”
The Panama City retailer remains mum on further expansion plans, saying that the Daytona project presented itself as a unique opportunity. “Working with ISC’s people has been an outstanding experience,” he said. “It’s an affirmation of something we’ve discovered over nearly half a century of retail. When you surround yourself with good people, good things happen.”