Owners of men’s formal wear shop in Bayside celebrate 55 years of going ‘above and beyond’ for customers

Lead photo courtesy of Bell Formal Wear. Other photos by Jenna Bagcal/QNS

Since 1964, Bayside residents have satisfied their men’s formal-wear needs at Bell Formal Wear, located at 38-34 Bell Blvd.

Now, sisters and third-generation store owners Maria and Bessie are celebrating 55 years in the business.

Bessie shared that the secret to their longevity is top-notch customer service and their ability to do all work on the premises. She added that their reputation has earned them a loyal customer base over the years.

“We provide good service and quality products. People trust us to come through for them,” she said. “Everything is done in-house by us and we do special requests and alterations that others wouldn’t do. We pretty much save the day.”

According to the owners, they specialize in the rental and sale of men’s tuxedos, suits, ties and accessories for a variety of special occasions including weddings, proms, bar mitzvahs and sweet sixteen parties. They stay abreast of the latest trends by going to fashion shows and communicating with the brands they sell in stores but they shared that customer requests are also good indicators of what’s in style.

Printed jackets are among the latest trends sold a Bell Formal

After their father, Spiro, retired in 2014 the sisters took over the family business much to the relief of area residents who heard that the store “might close” after his retirement. Bessie and Maria said that he is known to many as “Uncle Spiro” and had been in the business of men’s wear his entire life.

The sisters said that their father studied at the Fashion Institute of Technology and worked in “the fashion industry” in Manhattan prior to working at the shop. After some years of working at the business, he assumed ownership in the early 1980s from the shop’s original owners.

In early spring 2018, the shop underwent renovations in order to give it more of a “boutique” feel, which also involved downsizing their store from two storefronts to one. Their goal in renovating was to give the shop a “clean and updated” look.

Bessie said that she and her sister are grateful for the constant support they have received from the community and added that “without the customers, you can’t stand tall.” They recalled how oftentimes people would “come in as customers and leave as friends.”

Displayed on their store’s wall and on the counter are photographs and thank you notes from generations of satisfied customers.

In the spirit of celebration and “gratitude” for their customers, the women are offering special wedding and prom deals from the end of February through all of 2019.

Bessie and Maria said that their favorite part of being in their industry is being a part of their customers’ special occasions.

“We go above and beyond our capability for people’s special events,” said Bessie. “They represent us, [so] if they don’t look good, we don’t look good. We’re happy to be part of helping someone bring it all together.”

Bessie and Maria declined to give their last names for this interview.

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