It's easy to dismiss Nat's Men's Shop as a doomed remnant of Port Richmond Avenue's heyday, when was lined with specialty shops, restaurants, furniture stores and more.
One of the street's few surviving businesses, Nat's is tucked into a merchandise-packed
Port Richmond Avenue, January, 2009: No retail mecca.
storefront crouched under a railway trestle that hasn't seen a train in more than half a century. I'd noticed Nat's Men's Shop many times from a car window over the years, but recently, shopping for electrical supplies at Richmond Chandelier nearby on Port Richmond Avenue, I stopped to inspect Nat's store windows and liked what I saw.
With a slew of nearby malls and shopping centers offering any size and style in every price range, why would any St. Georgian who had a choice go shopping for menswear in a retail wasteland?
I can think of several reasons.
The first is political. When I have a choice, I want to support local retailers, not retailing corporations headquartered in Dallas or Dayton.
The second is what I saw in those store windows. Brands like Carhartt and Dickies and Duofold. Brands that mean quality and durability.
They don’t make them like this anymore
The third answer is pure nostalgia. Nat's is a combination of two old-fashioned kinds of men's clothing stores they're just not making anymore:
. . . and the Army & Navy store, which sold a lot of de-requisitioned military clothing and equipment, much of it in Olive Drab or a very dark Navy Blue
Old-fashioned service, no extra charge
The fourth reason for shopping at Nat’s is the service. And what I mean by service is a salesperson who knows his or her stock, provides a range of choices and suggestions within your price range, and gets you out of the store quickly, with exactly what you came for.
At Nat’s, the salesperson didn’t just ask what I wanted and then point me in the right direction. He checked my size, disappeared for a moment behind a double-decker rack of trousers and then brought out what I asked for in a variety of styles and prices—as well as a recommendation that turned out to be a better fit, in more ways than one, than what I’d planned to buy.
About 15 minutges later, I exited Nat's with two pairs of brand name jeans, one lined and one not; a pair of brand name cotton long johns; a wool watchap, and a pair of shoelaces––all exactly what I wanted, at a fair price.
There’s another reason I almost forgot: Convenience.
Nat’s is only a 15-minute ride from home on the S-40 bus along Richmond Terrace. My little shopping excursion was successfully completed in about an hour. Beats the mall any day.