Interview: Larry McGuire
You’ve owned ByGeorge since 2015. What have been some of the greatest lessons you’ve learned since then?
Retail is tough! There aren’t many brick and mortar, locally owned luxury stores like ByGeorge left. To be successful it really takes the right combination of a great buy, amazing customer service, creative marketing and financial responsibility. Shopping is still fun and that there will always be a place for great stores like ByGeorge.
As a native Austinite, what has ByGeorge represented to you over the years?
ByGeorge has always represented that even in laid back & casual Austin there is a place for fine clothing and a life lived ambitiously. Our locally owned businesses are the best in world. We have the best people and best customers and Austin feels like something unique. Matt & Katy Culmo built this business over 30 years by being extremely passionate about what they were doing and who they were doing it with…I’m just trying to keep that going as long as possible.
How do you think your experience in hospitality translates into how ByGeorge operates?
I look at the restaurants not solely with a focus on great food, great service or great vibe but on a value of our customer’s time. They are trusting us that the 2 hours they choose to spend with us are going to be worth it and we cater that experience to people who really love to eat out as much as we do. We just want people to have a great time, worth the commitment they are making with us.
I view ByGeorge the same way for people who really like clothing and shopping. Our time is so cluttered these days and we have very efficient and easy options for online shopping…so ByGeorge has to provide a unique mix of product, service and hospitality that makes the time you spend with us worth it.
You’re established in the restaurant and hospitality industry.
How has your experiences within that community differed to your experiences now in the fashion retail industry?
When I bought the company and started going to Paris markets, I don’t think our vendors knew what to think. They were like, what is this 33-year-old dude doing buying women’s clothing and bags. I was literally picking out shoes and bags from Celine, Saint Laurent, Bottega in Paris & Milan, then coming home and opening a restaurant or line cooking. It’s a weird mash up sometimes, but what I get to see in fashion trends, whether it be colors or materials or just a collective feeling, has definitely informed the design and concepts of the restaurant work. And the buying travel is just invaluable in my restaurant education…. June’s really came about from all favorite neighborhood spots in the Marais that I visit during market.
What is your favorite brand at the store right now?
I love the new menswear collection by The Row, super cool cuts with amazing fabrics & quality. Dries Van Noten for both men & women is so good and so consistent season over season, and I love what my buddy Greg Chait does with Elder Statesman.
You’ve been on multiple buying trips. What do you tend to look for when at market these days?
I think the goal of the ByGeorge buy is always to bring back the best things from around the world to Austin in way that makes sense for our customers. That means an interesting mix of brands, taking some risks and selecting things that will last, become beloved pieces for our customers not just for one season – but for years. I think it’s our job to wade through all the noise and fads and pick the best things for Austin.
Who is the ByGeorge man?
Our customers are really all over the place between the two stores and brands that we stock. I try to always have a great mix from high to low in the men’s shop and from edgy to staples. We’ve got brands like Margiela, Dries and Loewe for fashion geeks to more luxury stuff like Brunello Cucinelli & The Row for a more elegant guy. We’ve always got some beautiful suits and love dressing guys for their weddings or career milestones. I think our men appreciate quality and consistency but want to be presented with new options for creativity and pushed a bit.
Where do you envision ByGeorge to be in the next five years?
We are super excited to build a new flagship store soon on west 6th in Clarksville. I think the new space will represent our vision of retail, design & hospitality
What is inspiring you lately?
I’m usually inspired by travel. I’m pretty nomadic. This summer my girlfriend and I followed up the summer Paris buying trip with a road trip from Cannes to Florence, down through Tuscany to Rome and then flew to Tel Aviv for a few days. I love the classic hotels of the Italian coast and we are working on an Italian restaurant for our hotel project in New Orleans. The food and people of Tel Aviv were electric and I’m hoping to bring some of that flavor to the restaurants we are about to open in Austin’s Proper Hotel.
What is your morning routine?
Wake up fairly late – around 7:30 or 8am. I receive reports from the previous day’s business at each restaurant location at 8:15, read that in bed to get me good and stressed out, then I drink a whole pot of coffee while I think about what’s going on that day. I feed Howard, our giant standard poodle and let him out. Shower, put on my standard outfit of jeans, t-shirt and vans. The next 10-30 minutes are spent trying to convince or catch Howard to get in the car depending on what kind of mood he’s in…then we head to MMH’s office on South Congress.
Who do you look up to?
Favorite way to listen to music:
I have a really simple Rega stereo setup at home and we listen to vinyl while cooking dinner. It’s currently Van Morrison, Miles Davis, Nina Simone, Kevin Morby and always War on Drugs and Willie.
Larry wears suit by Maison Margiela, shirt by Boglioli
Sweatshirt by The Row, trousers by Brunello Cucinelli and sneakers by Common Projects
Polo and Trousers by Dries Van Noten
Sweater by Stone Island, Jeans by Levis Vintage
Interview by Brittani Lepley
Photos by Alexandra Valenti