Tux Rentals Are Getting Back To Business

Jun 2, 2021
Originally published on June 3, 2021 2:54 pm

No patent leather shoes on the dance floor. No teenagers struggling to put on cufflinks for the first time.

"Last year was pretty much non-existent in our business," says Pam Guedoura, owner of Tuxedos and Suits With Style, in Dover, New Hampshire.

Most proms and weddings were cancelled last year due to COVID-19, which was financially crushing to stores that rent tuxedos and formal wear. But as states lift restrictions and cases of the coronavirus decline, those shops are getting back in the business of making teenagers look good.

"I went black-on-black, with a royal blue vest and tie," says Andrew Diamant, a senior at Spaulding High School in Rochester, N.H. who stopped by Tuxedos With Style last week for a fitting. "I'm pretty excited for it. It looks really good."

Spaulding High School, like lots of school districts, made a last minute decision to host an outdoor event. Along with high schoolers, Guedoura is also fitting a steady stream of groomsmen ahead of a busy wedding season.

"We have had some people that had three different dates, and finally they said we are going to have this wedding no matter what. You can only do that to a bride so many times," she says.

Guedoura and her husband Fred have run the shop for more than thirty years. When Troy Nelson walks in and asks if they carry any pink ties to match his date's dress, Guedoura grabs just the right shade.

"Our school actually wouldn't do a prom for us," says Nelson, a senior at York High School in Maine. " Our parents set it up, and we got it all good to go, and so we are excited."

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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Not too many people rented tuxedos last year. Proms and weddings were mostly cancelled. For shops that rent tuxes, it was crushing. Now, business is picking up again. New Hampshire Public Radio's Todd Bookman files this audio postcard.

TODD BOOKMAN, BYLINE: Pam Guedoura has been dressing people up for three decades.

PAM GUEDOURA: Do you know how to put cufflinks on?

ANDREW DIAMANT: Nope.

GUEDOURA: Come on down here. So you'll have...

BOOKMAN: Guedoura, along with her husband, Fred, own Tuxedos with Style in Dover, N.H. They stock a huge array of tuxes and colored vests.

How do you get into a business like this?

GUEDOURA: You marry a tailor.

(SOUNDBITE OF PHONE RINGING)

GUEDOURA: Tuxedos with Style.

BOOKMAN: Last year was nonexistent in this industry. This spring, it's been touch-and-go. Lots of high schools waited 'til the last minute to decide on hosting proms.

GUEDOURA: Pretty much a month ago they all said no, you know, that COVID was just not going to make it possible. But little by little, as the governor opened things up, you know, they tried to make something for the kids because they lost last year completely.

DIAMANT: I went black-on-black with a royal blue vest and tie. I'm pretty excited for it. It looks really good.

BOOKMAN: Andrew Diamant, age 18, is getting ready for his senior prom at Spaulding High School. They're going all-out.

DIAMANT: My whole group, actually - there's probably, like, 11 of us. We're getting a whole limo. We're doing the whole shebang. We're getting all gussied up and everything.

BOOKMAN: Nick Maher walks in carrying a motorcycle helmet.

NICK MAHER: Oh, yeah. I'm just looking forward to the after-party.

BOOKMAN: He's a groomsman getting fitted for an August wedding - slim, blue suit.

GUEDOURA: Wasn't this wedding originally going to be last year, I think?

MAHER: It was, yes.

GUEDOURA: Believe me, we have had some people that had three different dates...

MAHER: Yeah.

GUEDOURA: ...You know? And finally they've said, we're going to have this wedding no matter what, you know? You can only do that to a bride so many times.

BOOKMAN: When's the last time you had to wear a suit?

MAHER: Right before COVID started I had a wedding. It was down in Florida. So that was the last time. Feels good to be back in it.

BOOKMAN: Are you going to trim the beard or not?

MAHER: Oh, yeah. Not all the way, but we'll clean it up.

BOOKMAN: Guedoura parts his beard and checks the fit on Maher's shirt. She remains wary of the coronavirus.

GUEDOURA: Our business is - you know, I have - I'm measuring the people. I'm very close to them.

So is it OK in the neck for you? Or...

BOOKMAN: But except for renting suits for funerals, this line of work is generally fun. Lots of kids, like Troy Nelson, are dressing up for the first time.

GUEDOURA: So any ideas what you're looking for?

TROY NELSON: I was thinking black pants, white coat, white shirt, probably.

GUEDOURA: OK. Kind of like that?

BOOKMAN: Nelson - pink tie to match his date's dress - goes to York High School just across the border in Maine.

NELSON: Our school actually wouldn't do a prom for us. So our, like, parents set it up, and we got it all good to go. And so we're excited about it.

GUEDOURA: All right. So I'm going to have you stand right up on the stool for me.

BOOKMAN: Are they going to do, like, DJ, the whole thing?

NELSON: I think DJ, yeah. I'm not sure about a dinner, but we'll see. I'm sure my girlfriend knows a lot more about it, to be honest (laughter).

BOOKMAN: Cufflinks, cummerbunds, patent leather shoes - Pam Guedoura at Tuxedos with Style is ready, again, to help you look good.

For NPR News, I'm Todd Bookman.

(SOUNDBITE OF CHARLES MINGUS', "BOOGIE STOP SHUFFLE") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.