Harry L. Caserta Jr. remembers shopping at Joyner-Fry on the downtown square when he was 5.
Caserta, 54, who owns London Shop Antiques, said his father took him to the men's clothing store to buy Cub Scout uniforms.
“My family has shopped at Joyner-Fry for 75 years,” Caserta said, adding that he has followed his grandfather and father in shopping there.
After 75 years in business, Joyner-Fry, one of the oldest family owned businesses in Tyler, is preparing to close its doors.
"They've clothed many generations of Tylerites,” Caserta said. “We're all very sad about” the closing.
When he was 12, he worked for the two-story Joyner-Fry downtown, and his job was running merchandise to be gift wrapped upstairs, then running it back downstairs to the customers during the Christmas season. He continued working there throughout junior high and high school, doing whatever was asked of him.
“In 1964, I came on full-time and never looked back,” he said, adding that he always knew he wanted to follow in his grandfather's and father's footsteps by running the business.
Joyner-Fry is a “full menswear store, from head to toe,” Fry said. It carries suits, sport coats, trousers, shoes, shirts, hats, belts, ties and other menswear.
Fry said his fondest memories of the store are the people.
“Our customers are some absolutely delightful people. … We've made some absolutely wonderful friends over the years.”
Fry said he began thinking about retiring last fall. He plans to close the shop in late December or when all of the merchandise is sold. He closed the store on Sept. 28 to get ready to reopen with the “Going out of Business Sale” on Wednesday. Fry said he mailed 2,600 letters to customers about the store closing and sale, and a lot of customers have been calling him, telling them they would miss him.
“It's the end of a Tyler institution,” he said of Joyner-Fry. “It's the end of an era.”
John Heines, president of John Heines Appraisals, has been shopping at Joyner-Fry since it was on the downtown square in the 1950s. He said he knew Steve Fry's father, Segle Fry Jr., and his partner Tom Joyner.
“They always had great service,” he said. “At one time, they were the only place you could buy Boy Scout uniforms and equipment.” He added he also believes Joyner-Fry was at one time the only place in town to buy Levi's jeans.
Heines, 82, recalled that he started shopping at Joyner-Fry after coming to Tyler for the first time in 1952.
“I was a young man, wasn't I?” he said. Growing up in Indiana, Heines served in the Air Force and lived in Tyler off and on from 1952 to 1962, when he moved back for good. He's been shopping at Joyner-Fry ever since.
“It's always been a friendly place,” Heines said. “Steve (Fry), Jack (Blaschke) and Richard (Dailey) — you just walk in the room and you're seeing your friends. It's always been that way with Joyner-Fry; they knew you, and you knew them.”
Heines said he was shocked to learn they were going out of business.
“I was surprised … where do you go from here,” he said. “I'm sorry that they're going out of business. … They'll be missed by a lot of people.”
Nelson Clyde, president of the T.B. Butler Publishing Co. and publisher of the Tyler Morning Telegraph, said Joyner-Fry is an institution of the community.
“Growing up in Tyler, I knew Tom Joyner and Segle Fry and I have really fond memories of buying my first pair of Levi's at the Joyner-Fry in Bergfeld Center,” he said.
One of Clyde's favorite stories about the business comes from a pastor who moved to Tyler from California. After driving by the store, he told his congregation that he thought Joyner-Fry would make a good name for a church, Clyde said.
Jim Brettell, 84, has been shopping at Joyner-Fry since he retired from being CEO of a manufacturing company in Kansas City and moved to Tyler 25 years ago.
“They have good name brand stuff,” he said, adding that it is a convenient place to shop for a fine selection of suits, shoes, slacks and shirts. “They're the best men's clothing store in town. I really hate to see them go.”
He said they are nice and helpful.
“I consider them friends as well as business acquaintances …,” Brettell said. “I guess they're entitled to retire like everyone else.”
S.G. Fry decided he did not want to be in the menswear business anymore and Steve Fry's father, Segle Fry Jr., told his dad he would buy it from him, he said.
Fry said his grandfather would not sell the business to his son unless he found a partner experienced in men's clothing. Segle Fry brought in Tom Joyner, who was men's department manager for Caldwell, Hughes, Delay and Allen, a general store that nearly took up the west side of the square, in the 1930s, Fry said.
Segle Fry and Joyner bought the store in 1937, named it Joyner-Fry and owned it until 1976, when Fry bought them out, he said. Fry owns the store with his younger sister, Sharon Fry.
In 1965, Joyner-Fry moved to its current location in Bergfeld Center.
“Bergfeld Center has been really great to us over the years,” Fry said.
At one time, the family had the Bergfeld Center and the downtown stores, as well as Guys & Dolls, a teenage clothing store the Frys had from 1971 to 1979.
In 1976, Joyner-Fry downtown closed, and they opened Joyner-Fry Florsheim, which Fry said was the first independently owned Florsheim shoe store in the country. It was in Broadway Square Mall for 15 years and at the corner of Broadway Avenue and Shelley Drive for 11 years before it was combined with the then newly renovated Joyner-Fry store in Bergfeld Center, Fry said.
“I married it,” Mrs. Fry said of the business.
Mrs. Fry, 69, started working in retail at Dorrity's Shoe Store downtown and has worked as secretary and treasurer at Joyner-Fry.
“I like seeing all the repeat customers and friends,” she said of what she will miss most about closing. “But it's going to be nice to be retired and stay home.”
Mrs. Fry plans to work in her yard and experiment with cooking dishes she has never made before. “I'll finally have time to rise bread,” she said.
When asked what he plans to do after retirement, Fry said, “Not a whole lot.”
But he does plan to stay active and competitive in shotgun target shooting, a hobby he started in 1964. He travels around five states, going to Skeet shooting tournaments on the weekends.
Richard Dailey has been with Joyner-Fry for 16 years and is in charge of sales. He has a 22-year retail background and plans to go into the real estate business.
Blaschke, 70, has been in the menswear business for more than 50 years. He worked for Hurwitz Man's Shop in Tyler for 28 years. He eventually became owner of the store before it closed in 1988, and he went to work for Joyner-Fry.
“I'm going to miss the customers,” Blaschke said. “I've made a lot of good friends.”
Blaschke said he gets bored easily. Even on his days off he would go to the shop at 7:30 a.m. to do some paperwork. “I'm going to miss it very much,” he said.
He said the transition will be tough.
“It's almost like a family here,” Mrs. Fry said.
“That's what we are,” Blaschke agreed. “We're one big family.”