We sit down with Lew Aceto, Shad DeLacy & John Epling to find out what is the finest in fashion at S.J. Crystals.
We have a rich history throughout Kenosha; Crystal’s has had seven different locations in Kenosha. It started in early 1896 by Louis Crystal at 5701 22nd Ave. Through the years, it has been located on 56th Street near the train tracks and next to the First National Bank on Sixth Avenue. At that location it was then taken over by Gabe and Josephine cohen, Josephine being the daughter to Louis Crystal.
When my mother and father, Sam and Joanne, took over the business, they altered the name to “S.J. Crystal’s” to represent their first names.
The earliest I remember was in the late 1950’s, we were in the building that now holds Lulu Birds from 1963 until the early 80s.
At that time, the Downtown was beginning to deteriorate, many of the stores here had already closed or moved west. There were many factors which contributed to the downfall of Downtown in the 70s and 80s – the Southport Mall didn’t help. But people’s shopping habits were changing, and many of the old time retailers were retiring or dying off, and their families didn’t want to continue the business. The same could have happened to SJ Crystals, had I not loved the business and wanted to carry on with it. Like many others, we relocated west to Pershing Plaza in the early 80s, but were excited to return to Downtown Kenosha in 2004.
I feel like I’m the luckiest man in the world, because I still enjoy coming to work everyday and meeting new people and seeing all the new styles with every season. I find it fun to see the old styles returning and the younger people think these are some new groundbreaking fashion trends.
Q. How did you get involved with Lew & S.J. Crystal’s?
Shad: It was fall of 95′ when I first started working for Lew. I was 17, my father thought that having a job as a young man would keep me out of trouble and learn about responsibility. I had no idea how much I would love the clothing industry. Of course I’ve had other jobs but none of them gave me the freedom to be as creative or opportunities like S.J. Crystal’s.
Q. What is your role at S.J. Crystal’s?
Shad: I manage the store and I also assist Lew in the buying process. I’m also in charge of all wedding parties and promotional events. And, of course, I help people create looks for all occasions.
Q. What is your idea of a perfect suit pairing?
Shad: Honestly the fit of the suit is more important to me then the pairing. A person can have the nicest, most expensive suit ever, made from the finest materials and paired up with extraordinary accessories. But, without the proper fit, all that means nothing. At S.J. Crystal’s, we provide FREE alterations to ensure that the clothing you buy from us fits properly.
Q. Tell us what you think will be the hottest new trends in menswear?
Shad: Cool, comfort, bold. Lots of button up shirts with geometric and floral patterns. Believe it or not, lots of Hawaiian and novelty prints as well. Stacy Adams Footwear came out with some fun and exciting shoe selections for this summer. Lot of clothing manufacturers are making bold decisions, so are we.
Q. What makes shopping at S.J Crystal’s so unique?
Shad: The biggest thing I find that’s the most frustrating about big box stores and/or purchasing from websites is the lack of personal service and professional assistance. It’s rare to find those personal touches that make the buying process easy, let alone enjoyable. We strive to make sure that your shopping experience with us is easy and frustration free.
Lew and I take pride that our customers look good and feel confident in everything purchased from S.J. Crystal’s.
Q. How do you organize a wedding party?
Shad: I always start by asking the bride and groom to-be, to tell me how they see their wedding. After I have a full understanding of their vision for their special day, we then create the look. The parts the couples aren’t involved with is very tedious. I coordinate fitting times for those in the wedding party. I then work closely with my vendors to place orders and coordinate shipping dates. The list goes on and on but the most important thing is making sure that the bride and groom are always in the loop of the progress and I make myself available at all times for their peace of mind.
Q. Can you tell us about some of the highly successful fashion shows you have put on in the past?
Shad: “The Show” in 2019 was a fashion show we put on for Women’s and Children’s Horizons.This was a joint effort involving many of the Downtown businesses to raise money for families suffering from domestic abuse and awareness of these ever growing issues. It was a big hit and we were able to present a check to The Women’s and Children’s Horizons for almost $11,000! And I’m excited to say, I’m in the middle of recreating that event this year. So keep your ears open for announcements about that in the near future.
Q. What are your goals for S.J. Crystal’s?
Shad: To have people give small businesses like us a chance before jumping online to purchase their items. I know there is a huge amount of people that order clothing online that may not fit correctly or the quality is not what they were expecting. Unfortunately, they just end up keeping it because they don’t want to go through the hassle of returning it or they have to find a place to pay for expensive alterations. Just come here first, save yourself time, money and all the hassles.
Q. What is your personal favorite line of clothing at S.J Crystal’s?
Shad: I’ve been having a lot of fun buying our more casual items lately. F/X Fusion has a line called Trends which carries some dope shirts that walk that fine line between dressy and casual. Then there’s Devil Dog jeans that provide so many different cuts, that any guy can find that perfect denim that fits their style.
Q. You have also brought in a local artist John Epling to do engravings for weddings,.Can you tell us more about this new feature at S.J.Crystal’s?
Shad: I’ve known John for 20+ years. His ability to create unique art pieces out of just about any material is crazy. Once I saw some of his work I had to find a way to showcase it.
This year we rolled out a new program called S.J.’s Engravables. John and I found unique wedding gift items that John personally engraves for wedding parties.
We offer an array of special items like cuff links, pictures frames, glassware, flasks and tons of other keepsakes. These items serve as a perfect gesture from the bride and groom to show their appreciation to those involved on their special day. John creates custom art work for our customers as well.
Q. How did you get into engravings?
John: While researching laser engraving options for a project at work, I came across some very detailed and artistic pieces created through this process. This piqued my interest enough to buy a machine of my own. A few months later it arrived at my doorstep and Wisconsin Laser Works was born.
Q. How did you get involved with S.J. Crystal’s?
John: I’ve been friends with Shad, for 20 + years, and the idea for S.J.’s Engravables was actually his. After seeing one of my pieces, he approached me with the idea and we immediately got to work.
Q. How does it make you feel that someone will treasure your art as a reminder of one of the greatest days of their lives?
John: It’s definitely a nice feeling to know that my work will commemorate these special occasions and hopefully be cherished for years to come.
Q. Where can ppl learn more about your custom engraving?
John: People can find more information on my Facebook page, Wisconsin Laser Works. You can also email any inquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org
Q&A and photos by Donny Stancato
Edited by Jason Hedman
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(This article first appeared in the Downtown Kenosha Magazine Summer 2022 issue)