Walk into just about any men's clothing store these days and you may feel neglected.
Let's say you get to talk to someone about a suit or a pair of dress slacks. The most likely answer is, "They're over there."
Not so at John Franklin Ltd. in downtown Mooresville.
This Main Street shop is a classic haberdashery owned by John Franklin Smith. The store has been in the same location for more than 40 years.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Charlotte Observer
It was originally called The Young Men's Shop and then the Kelly Clothing Co. Smith bought the store from C.O. Kelly, making him the store's third owner.
Smith will greet you the minute the bell attached to the door clangs against the frame.
He will appear from behind the racks of shirts, dress hats and shoes in the center of the store.
Smith looks the part of a man who knows his stuff. He usually wears a coat and tie, but the tipoff is the measuring tape draped around his collar.
There was a time when just about every town had a men's clothing store.
They have been edged out of business by high-volume retailers who offer lower prices and the inevitable lower quality.
Smith began his career when he was 14 while he was a student at Mooresville High. Smith, 68, lives on Idlewood Harbor community on Lake Norman.
He has been in the clothing business for more than half a century. During that time he has sold fine men's clothing to several generations of Mooresville's well-dressed gentlemen.
Smith has seen it all - from the skinny ties and skimpy-brim porkpie hats of the 50s to the bell bottoms, floral prints and wide lapels of the 60s. Then came the disco era of polyester, leisure suits and platform shoes in the 70s and 80s.
Some of those styles are coming back in a more subdued way. Wool, cotton and silk fibers and blends overshadow the man-made variety, although those have gotten much less like cardboard.
No matter what, Smith stays tuned into the trends.
He attends clothing industry trade shows to make sure his store keeps up with the merchandise you would find on the higher-priced racks in the big department stores.
Personal attention sets this store apart from the large department stores near Interstate 77. Just spend a few minutes in Smith's store and you'll see a procession of people.
Some are picking up altered suits or slacks; others are just looking for a special tie or pocket square to complete an outfit.
Others try on the changing selection of high-quality shoes. Smith knows more than the circumference of his customers' waistlines, a classified measurement, or the inseam lengths of their slacks.
He spends time to learn about them, their families and their preferences.
He has even bought items at trade shows that he knows would appeal to his regular customers.
"I came up in a time in the clothing business when the customer was always important," said Smith. "Without the customer, you don't have a business. When I started in the business when I was 14, the owners taught me to take pride in what we sell. It's not just a sale to be made. We wanted the customer to come back and we made a lifelong commitment to them."