Son hopes to recapture glory days

May 25, 2002|By AARON CLAVERIE, Staff Writer, Dateline: Calexico

Alfonso Durazo hopes to re-establish an expectation of great service at the downtown clothing store his father opened here in 1972.

To get out the word about the change in ownership — he took over the store a few months ago — and the renovated interior, Durazo threw a big block party Saturday that featured bands, deep-pit barbecued beef and 30 percent off everything in the store.

Everything included the new selection of western wear and casual clothes that Durazo recently brought in to complement the selection of suits for which his father's store was famous.

In 1972 Alfonso Durazo Sr. opened a clothing store at 218 Heffernan Ave. Durazo sold clothes to loyal Mexicali clients and friends he met while working at the Estrella Azul department store.


In the mid- to late 1970s, Durazo's was one of the first places to go when Calexico's men were looking for a new suit or a tux. In the 1980s the store's fortunes took a hit when the peso devaluation crippled border commerce.

The only thing that kept the business viable during those lean years was the service that Durazo provided to his customers, according to Alfonso Durazo Jr. Instead of trying to sell his clients clothes, Durazo would bring in new merchandise that he would offer to his customers.

The subtle difference in how he did business kept the store going until 1990, when Durazo died.

In the shake-up following his death, Durazo's daughters took over the store while Alfonso Durazo concentrated on agricultural sales. Late last year, after the border crackdown following Sept. 11 made Calexico's downtown like a ghost town, the Durazo family considered selling the store.

Alfonso Durazo couldn't do it.

"I decided to keep the store open for my father and for the downtown," he said.

It's not going to be easy to make money selling menswear in Calexico.

In addition to the competition from local stores and San Diego discount warehouses, it is hard to get men to buy clothes period unless every single stitch of clothing they own has been burned by a frustrated spouse.

Even then it's tough.

Durazo knows it's going to take a lot of work to turn a profit but he says he's in it for the long haul.

"I've put my soul, my heart and my wallet into this, the way my father would have wanted it," he said.

To help make shopping more than a chore, Durazo has created more floor space inside the store to give men more room to move.

That's good. Men need space.

He's kept on longtime tailor Efren Correa. That's a good sign, too. Every man should know a good tailor.

Asked about the merchandise he's carrying, Durazo said he kept the brand label casual stuff that his sisters introduced at the store, such as Peerless, DKNY and Kenneth Cole, stylish 100 percent wool three-button suits and the store's collection of classic unpleated SansaBelt slacks and those always popular, sports coats with patches on the sleeves.

By carrying both modern and classic styles of clothing, Durazo hopes to satisfy the clothing needs of different generations under one roof.

"A lot of people say, ‘I didn't know you had all these great clothes,'" Durazo said.

He does. He hopes people come by to check out the selection.

"You don't have to go over the hill," he said.

Calexico Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Hildy Carrillo-Rivera said the chamber will do all it can to help Durazo's become a success once more. She said the family could have easily sold the store but decided to stick it out instead.

"We admire that," she said.

>> Staff Writer Aaron Claverie can be reached at 337-3419 or

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