Before Fashion Island and South Coast Plaza, Gordy Atkinson was
selling suits to the Newport Beach elite.
Harkening back to a time before big department stores and trendy
retailers, Atkinson's store -- called simply Atkinson's -- sits along
Via Lido, as it has for five decades. But only a few days remain
until the waterfront store sails off into history. Atkinson plans to
close shop and retire Saturday.
"Business isn't what it used to be," Atkinson said. "Nobody wears
suits and sport coats. Nobody dresses like a gentleman."
Atkinson, 66, followed his father Gordon into the clothing
business. He started working at the Atkinsons' first store, in
Pasadena, when he was 14. In 1954, the family moved the business to
Lido Marina Village, where Atkinson has worked ever since.
Atkinson said his list of clients resembles a who's who of Newport
history. He counts entertainers John Wayne, Joey Bishop and Rock
Hudson as past customers. Atkinson's roll also includes Irvine Co.
head Donald Bren, the developer's father, film producer Milton Bren,
and Watergate figure H. R. "Bob" Haldeman, who was Richard Nixon's
chief of staff.
"The elite lived on the water, in apartments and were all
customers," Atkinson said.
Atkinson's is lined with three-button suits, cashmere sweaters and
more clothing reminiscent of the look one would expect to find at a
New England university or office. Absent are loud colors, hip
stylings or anything that smacks of attitude.
"There's only one style -- it's traditional," Atkinson said.
Atkinson said the "beginning of the end of fine-tailored clothing"
started about five years ago, when he noticed two-button suits and
pleated pants coming into fashion.
One problem for the store, Atkinson said, is that many of his
faithful customers already have enough clothes.
"Everybody's older that shops here; they've got three sport coats
already; and my stuff will last you a lifetime," he said.
As the store's closure loomed on the calendar, some longtime
customers stopped by Atkinson's Tuesday morning for one more visit.
Barton Beek, whose family owns the Balboa Island Ferry, said he has
been an Atkinson's shopper for about as long as the store's been
"I used to buy clothes from Gordy's father in Pasadena, when I was
in college," Beek said. "I've been shopping here ever since Gordy
Without Atkinson's, Beek doesn't know where he will shop, he said.
New styles available from stores at South Coast Plaza and Fashion
Island don't fit his tastes.
"Those guys are too fashionable for me," he joked.
Another customer, Ed Miller of Newport Beach, said he would miss
Atkinson's and other bygone stores that he believes have better
service and history.
"It's just another part of old Newport changing. Let's not say
dying, but changing," Miller said. "You see some of the old
restaurants and old clothing stores go and be replaced by chains, and
* ANDREW EDWARDS covers business and the environment. He can be
reached at (714) 966-4624or by e-mail at email@example.com.