Article by Isabelle Schmaltz, Jun 12, 2018
Photograph by J.L. Sousa Napa Valley Register
Yellow pants paired with the perfect shirt seemed like an ideal match to Napa clothing store owner Scott Lyall. But for the male customer who was expected to wear it, the boldly colored ensemble was far outside his comfort zone. That’s when Lyall made an interesting bet. Wear the outfit to dinner tonight, Lyall proposed, and if the man didn’t receive more than five compliments, Lyall would take it all back. The bet was a risk for the clothing store owner. The outfit, like all the clothes in Lyall’s store, was high-quality, high-end fashion and would be hemmed to fit the customer. The man took the bet, went to dinner in his edgy new outfit and called Lyall the next day: At least a dozen people had approached him with compliments. “After so many years in the business, you know what looks good and what doesn’t,” Lyall said. “I’ll never let you walk out of my store looking bad.” Scott Lyall Clothes for Men is located on Main Street in Napa’s Riverfront district. Next door is a women’s clothing store owned by Scott’s mother, Helen Lyall. Both clothing stores are renowned for high-quality clothing, ideal for the fashion-conscious customer. While the stores sell a few basics, they are best known for following the most current fashion trends. The clothes are unique, edgy and personally selected by each store’s owner. “I handpick all of it,” Helen Lyall said of her store’s merchandise. “The minute a new fashion comes in, I hop on it. Our store is known to be the first in fashion.” When Scott Lyall selects merchandise for his men’s store, he looks for distinctive clothing that stands out from typical menswear. His number one line is Robert Graham, a popular men’s clothing brand known for its color and eye-catching detail. For Helen Lyall, an interest in merchandising and fashion began early as she witnessed the daily operations of her family’s store, which sold everything from thread and fabric to work boots and baptismal gowns. Lyall grew up in eastern Arizona in a small copper mining town called Superior. Her parents, who immigrated to the U.S. from Lebanon, had nine children and owned a dry goods store, where the family also lived in a few shared rooms in the back. “It was crowded,” Lyall said. “But we were a very close family. We had a great family.” Lyall credits her hard work and knowledge for her success in the fashion industry. She began her fashion career in New York City and later moved west to the Bay Area. She worked at The City of Paris, an upscale department store that first opened in San Francisco’s Union Square. She then worked at James Sears in Vallejo, where her influence in fashion began to grow. She soon opened her own clothing store in Vallejo, which she ran successfully for 35 years while earning a loyal Napa Valley following in the process. In 2010, Lyall moved her store to Napa’s riverfront. Scott opened his men’s clothing store next door shortly thereafter. Both Scott and Helen Lyall know their reputations are tied to the clothing worn by their customers. It’s a responsibility they take seriously. Scott and Helen are frequently in their stores, weekends included, chatting with customers and providing wardrobe consultations. “We love to coordinate people’s wardrobes,” Helen Lyall said. Serious shoppers will spend hours in the Lyall’s clothing stores, where customers are often treated like royalty. “You can have the best store in the world, with the best merchandise and the best location, but if you don’t have the best customer service you’ll never make it,” Scott Lyall said. Both stores are accustomed to special orders, overnight shipping, gift wrapping and altering clothing to best fit their customers. Helen Lyall said it is not uncommon to offer wine and, sometimes, lunch to shoppers who are working on coordinating a wardrobe. “We make it fun for them and us,” Helen Lyall said. “Our customers are very, very loyal.” Scott Lyall said he and his mother both have a strong work ethic, and he credits her for teaching him “absolutely everything” about the clothing business. “The mother and son bond is wonderful,” Helen Lyall said.