Chip Stockton relaxes by moving.
“I’m more of a doer than a talker,” he said.
The president of H. Stockton Atlanta, a men’s clothing store with four locations in the metro area, said he’s been able to stay in business by outworking the competition.
One recent afternoon, the 59-year-old wore a soft-colored tweed coat and twill trousers as he zipped around Stockton’s Perimeter store in Dunwoody. Belt buckles and buttons glowed under the soft lights and the room smelled of polished leather.
Upstairs, his business partners, Patrick Dye and Joel Patton, waited for him with a selection of patterns they were considering for the fall 2013 inventory. Soon, Stockton joined them, taking the seat at the head of the table. As they studied pieces of fabric arranged on the table, Stockton often would stand from his chair, reaching over to point out a pattern he liked.
Stockton said over the years he’s learned that sitting still puts him at a disadvantage in a business where his competitors – national retail chains – are down the street.
“What’s changed for me is that I’ve realized I’ve got to work harder than the next guy to be successful,” Stockton said.
Stockton went into business as a youngster with his father, Ham Stockton, and they ran a store on Forsyth Street in Atlanta. He began working in the suit-selling business when he was 12. He moved to the Perimeter area in 1980. For 17 years, he partnered with his brother, Court, who passed away in 2010.
The Perimeter store staff takes turns choosing that day’s music selection, piping pop music in through the speakers. Once Stockton tried his hand at working in the music business, but said he “starved” trying to make a career out of it.
“I still like that,” Stockton said. “But I do want to eat.”
Distinguishing oneself in the distinguished gentleman’s clothing business became a game of contrasts. The chain stores trotted out flashy duds with foreign labels; he looked for understated garments made in America. Stockton estimates around 70 percent of his inventory is made in the United States and he makes regular trips to New York to “beat the bushes.”
“We canvass the market to see everything that’s out there,” Stockton said.
He said figuring out what he doesn’t like for his store is as important as determining what he does.
As he’s evolved in the business his company has relied on sportswear – trousers, shirts and sweaters – as another angle to explore his toned-down aesthetic. Stockton wants to provide clothes that won’t stick out in a closet, but will still look sharp.
“Our challenge has been to make sportswear understated but interesting,” he said.
Stockton prides himself on being local and said his business has thrived on building relationships with the community, even members who aren’t customers. He has a wife, Anne, and two grown children: his son, William Stockton, and a daughter, Hannah Orth.
The people who sell his suits have been with him for 15 to 20 years, he said, and the sales staff does all the tailoring upstairs.
“The person who fits you is the person who measures your garment,” Stockton said. “If you do want a relationship, we’re here for you.”