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Boyds Philadelphia

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Illuminated luxury department store building
Boyds Philadelphia store in Philadelphia (2019)

Boyds Philadelphia is a 4th generation, family-owned, American luxury clothing institution located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. It is known for its sophisticated and luxurious shopping experience, personalized service, vast selection of merchandise, and its on-premise, 35-person tailor shop.[1]

Throughout the years, it has become the shopping destination for a unique combination of CEOs, corporate Americans, doctors, bankers, lawyers, and fashionistas, as well as famous and infamous celebrities, rappers, and athletes. A few notable examples include Wilt Chamberlain, Julius Erving, Allen Iverson, John Legend, Chrissy Teigen, Lil Uzi Vert, and Tan France.[2] Boyds has also been featured in multiple Hollywood productions such as Richard Gere’s The Benefactor, Safe with Jason Statham, and most recently, in Season 5 Episode 6 of the seven-time Emmy Award winning show Queer Eye.

Boyds’ positioning within the luxury retail landscape is best captured by The New York Times in a recently feature article entitled “The Last Great Clothing Store”.


Alexander “Alec” Gushner was a Russian-Jewish immigrant who began his retail career in the early 1930s by selling newspapers, cigarettes, and cigars from a concession booth that he rented with his life savings. As his business slowly grew, he expanded his product offerings by also selling men’s dress shirts. In 1938, Alec invited his two brothers, Albert and Ben, to join him in partnership by opening a free-standing, men’s-only retail store.[3] It was located on 1217 Market Street. Alec and his brothers named their humble store “Boyds.”

Origin of the Name "Boyds"[edit]

Alec’s original preference was to name his store “Gushner’s,” but he feared that many people would not patronize his store because of its Jewish-sounding name. Ultimately, he chose “Boyds” because during this era, the most popular movie theatre in Philadelphia was called the “Boyd Theatre” and it was frequented by the wealthiest people in the area. He hoped that he could align his store with the theatre’s success.

A few years after Alec opened Boyds, the United States entered World War II and the government contracted most domestic clothing factories to produce uniforms for its

Wilt Chamberlain getting fitted for a custom suit at Boyds Philadelphia

military, making it virtually impossible for working Americans to find white dress shirts. Alec, however, somehow cornered the white dress shirt market by striking a deal with a New York-based manufacturer that provided Boyds exclusive distribution of white dress shirts. Ultimately, this deal enabled Alec’s business to not only survive during WWII, but to flourish.

Alec’s son, Gerald “Jerry” Gushner, joined Boyds in 1952, at which point Boyds began selling American-made, big-and-tall tailored clothing.[4] In 1968, Jerry partnered with his brother, Mark Gushner, and his cousin, Harvey Gushner, to purchase Boyds from Alec. Jerry greatly expanded Boyds’ tailored clothing selection by also offering “regular” sizes. Subsequently, he began importing designer tailored clothing from Italy, and merchandised them in an area called “the terrace.” This area was the most private and exclusive place within his store and it earned Boyds a reputation as the pre-eminent menswear destination in the Philadelphia area . At the age of 86, Jerry died in 2016 and leaves behind a legacy as one of the greatest and most progressive retailers of his generation.

In the late 1980s, Philadelphia’s Convention Center was experiencing great success, so to encourage its growth, the City of Philadelphia sought additional real estate to build hotels nearby. In 1990, Boyds relocated to 1818 Chestnut Street, into an iconic building that was formerly occupied by the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, and before that, by Oliver H. Bair funeral parlor. It’s believed that Connie Mack’s funeral was hosted here thirty-four years prior.[5] The building lies within Philadelphia’s famed Rittenhouse Square area. At the time Boyds purchased the building, Rittenhouse Square was ridden with crime, but Jerry and his son, Kent “Kenny” Gushner, were attracted to two assets: certainly the beautiful building itself, but moreover, the adjacent parking lot. They knew from their time on Market Street that convenient valet parking was vital to their success, which was originally a suggestion that Alec Gushner heeded from his friend and fellow legendary retailer, Barney Pressman, founder of Barney’s.

Alec Gushner and Barney Pressman retired to the same community in Florida and remained good friends until Alec died from a heart attack in 1984. Rittenhouse Square has since become the most expensive and ritzy part of Philadelphia, and many would argue that Boyds’ relocation helped to gentrify the area. Boyds’ convenient valet parking lot is still one of the most important components of the modern-day Boyds experience.[6]

In 2004, Kent Gushner purchased the business from his father.[7] Kent invited his two brothers-in-law into the partnership as well, and together they launched many initiatives, including an in-store café by George Perrier, and later, a popular local sushi restaurant, Raw.[8] In 2005, Govberg Jewelers established a concession inside of Boyds, and around this same time, Boyds further expanded its offerings by dedicating an entire floor, dubbed “B3,” to men’s casual clothing and to its growing women’s business.[9] These additions have since expanded the perception of Boyds from being strictly a dressy men’s destination to one that offers women’s and men’s designer products for any occasion.

Sitting woman with two business dressed men standing.
3rd generation Kent Gushner pictured with children and 4th generation Jessica and Alex Gushner.

In 2014, Kent’s son, Alex Gushner, joined the family’s business after spending two year in wholesale sales for Ermenegildo Zegna.[10] Around this same time, Boyds embarked on a $10mm remodeling and remerchandising project.[11] Boyds’ women’s business was the catalyst for this project; the family recognized an opportunity to further expand into the women’s market, but at the same time, knew that unlocking its potential required all women’s product to be front-and-center. Boyds’ women’s department now occupies the first floor and mezzanine levels and boasts brands such as Christian Louboutin, Bottega Veneta, Loewe, Akris, Valentino, and Moncler.

As a result of this remodel, Boyds’ second floor now houses a vastly expanded men’s casual presentation, much more than it ever has before. Staying true to its heritage, Boyds’ third floor is a comprehensive presentation for tailored clothing, offering anywhere from 1,000 – 2,000 suits and sport jackets from brands such as Trussini, Canali, Ermenegildo Zegna, ISAIA, TOM FORD, and Brioni. Boyds’ top floor is reserved for its 35-person tailor shop, which is the largest tailor shop in the United States.


  1. "About Us". Boyds Philadelphia. Retrieved 2020-05-28.
  2. Kurutz, Steven (2018-03-29). "The Last Great Clothing Store". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2020-05-28.
  3. "About Us". Boyds Philadelphia. Retrieved 2020-05-28.
  4. DeAcetis, Joseph. "Boyds: The Phoenix Of The Luxury Retail World". Forbes. Retrieved 2020-05-28.
  5. Macht, Norman L. (2007). Connie Mack and the Early Years of Baseball. U of Nebraska Press. ISBN 978-0-8032-0990-9. Search this book on
  6. "Boyds Philadelphia completes its $10 million renovation; here's what's new". pennlive. 2018-12-14. Retrieved 2020-05-28.
  7. "Clothes Minded". Retrieved 2020-05-28.
  8. "Boyds tries on a new suit". Retrieved 2020-05-28.
  9. "Boyds tries on a new suit". Retrieved 2020-05-28.
  10. Bernstein, Jesse (2019-07-30). "Jews of Philly fashion: Q&A with Alex Gushner of Boyds". Jewish Exponent. Retrieved 2020-05-28.
  11. "BOYD'S Philadelphia". DAS Architects. 2018-04-30. Retrieved 2020-05-28.

External links[edit]

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