THUNDER BAY — After five decades in the business of men’s fashion, Jim Hupka of Mister J Men’s Fashion knows what he’s talking about.
“For people that don’t know you, you’ve made an impression in the first five seconds that they’ve seen you,” he said.
For the gentleman applying for work, doing business or being a representative, nothing says professional like a traditional suit, shirt and tie and Hupka has cornered the market on just that.
“We have decided a long time ago that we couldn’t be everything to everyone so we decided that . . . we would go after these labels and be as current as possible with price points that people in Thunder Bay could afford and be happy with,” he said. “We have had a lot of (very) loyal people that have continued to grow with us over time and they continue to come back and support us. They continue to buy from us and have become like family to us.”
In the beginning, Hupka worked part time in the industry and his father noticed he was spending all the money he was making on clothes.
“At the time this place was available and we approached Murray Stitt and purchased all the fixtures and I opened the store on May 13, 1971,” he said.
Today, Hupka has four sons, all of which spent time working in the store helping him out. Through their friendships, they have brought new customers along as well.
“When you start, you never think that 50 years down the way, you’ll still be here,” he said. “I have been very fortunate to have the support of my wife and family and the support and work of my tailor Gus Chimbakis — from Mike’s Tailor Shop — who has been with me for over 35 years to help me do the work that we need to. I depend on him.”
Hupka says COVID-19 was a definite “kick in the bum” for everyone. Mister J Men’s Fashion also felt the brunt of the pandemic and was able to manage and “manoeuvre” through it. He credits his customers for their support.
As Ontario enters into the second phase of reopening from the pandemic-driven shutdown, Hupka has noticed a trend in his customers.
“The thing that I’ve seen in the brief time that we have been open is people trying to catch up on delayed marriages . . . trying to reschedule,” he said. “That has brought a little more business to all of us in men’s wear. What we are seeing right now is a lot of young people who are graduating or transferring to different universities or applying for different jobs and do not have suits. It is important that they choose the right garment for the interview and have taken the time to think about that.”
He says people being interviewed have already made an impression without even opening their mouths by the way that they are dressed. He says it may sound a little old school, but it’s true.
“Personal service was our aim and I won’t change from that,” he said. “I’ve tried to be as personal as I can with everyone and get the product they like and take care of them 100 per cent.
For now, Hupka has no plans to retire and looks forward to providing the same high standard of men’s wear as he has in the last 50 years.
Sandi Krasowski, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Chronicle-Journal