It’s a splendid morning downtown. Still early, the streets aren’t yet paved with shoppers, tourists, and sharp-dressed businesspeople. Just off Main Street, Tyler Hudzik dashes out of a high-end menswear shop carrying a small blue sack that by itself bespeaks sophistication: dark blue with an elegant, if understated, logo: RW.
“Last-minute request,” says Hudzik, 24, whose very presence outside 23 West North Street suggests his successes in real estate—just two years out of North Greenville University, he can happily afford a navy-blue tropical suit from downtown’s dressiest men’s clothier. He’s in a rush. And he just left one, namely Rush Wilson—more specifically, Rush Wilson Limited.
“Usually their turnaround time is seven days,” he says, stopping for a few minutes out on the sidewalk to explain that he needs his new suit for a wedding on Saturday. Today is Thursday. “But they’re going to take care of it. They’re going to have it ready for me.”
“All my vacations, summer break, Christmas break, Easter break, I’d come home to work. It just got in my blood.”—Rush Wilson III
That kind of service may explain why the proprietors are celebrating their 60th anniversary in Greenville this year and their 70th year in business next year. The company’s founder, James Rush Wilson Jr., graduated from Davidson College while working part-time at Belk’s. In August 1950, after serving as a Marine during the war, he returned to Davidson and opened his first menswear store. He was 23. In 1959, he opened a second one. In Greenville back then, nearly a dozen men’s apparel shops lined Main Street. Wilson leased the last vacant storefront where the Hyatt now stands. A decade later, during the Vietnam War, he closed his North Carolina store.
Today, the “new” shop, opened in 1978, inhabits a fine flannel-suit-gray building, whose heavy wooden, glass-paned door framed by two lanterns, would fit comfortably in Savile Row. Meanwhile, patriarchal namesake Rush III started working in the family business at age 12. He later went on to Wake Forest, where freshman chemistry ended his dream of becoming a dentist. He majored in business and, like his father, served in the military. “All my vacations, summer break, Christmas break, Easter break, I’d come home to work. It just got in my blood,” the clothier says, dapper in a colorful ensemble during an interview in his two-story building that abuts the alley leading to the Bank of America tower.
Even through downtown’s late ’70s collapse, Wilson Jr. hung on. “Most of his customers were professionals, most of them worked downtown, and they came to see my father for his expertise in fitting and selling quality menswear,” Rush III says.
Today, Rush IV, who goes by Jay, echoes that now-familiar path. Standing near the checkout counter, which features $195 bowties made in Charleston with vividly colored feathers from the likes of peacocks, guinea fowl, and pheasant, he says he went into banking after graduating from Presbyterian College. “What I wanted to do eventually was to come back to the store,” he says. “Five years went by, six years, seven years, and Dad called me and said, ‘I have an opportunity, if you’d still like to come to the store.’”
Like his father, Jay never really left, having started working there during middle school. “He did the same things I did,” RW III says with an easygoing smile—another family trademark. “Pride, loyalty, and love of the business,” RW IV says.
Those virtues now serve their fourth generation. “My dad would go to shop there when I was a kid,” says Dan Einstein, an insurance executive with a native Greenvillian pedigree. “I remember going in the store, and you know how the trousers are on a circular rack? We used to get underneath those racks and hide, so I’ve easily been going there for 50 years. “People don’t believe me when I say this: I’ve never bought a sport coat or suit anywhere else in my life. They always help me, they always have great ideas. They make sure the process is easy. They always make me feel good,” Einstein says.
That tradition still suits.
“With a lot of change that’s happening in the Greenville area,” Hudzik says, “I’m glad that there are some foundational businesses here that are still thriving and innovating and growing with the times. They’ve stood the test of time.”