Joe's Men's Shop, a Campustown feature since 1944, is steadily going through a process of remodeling. The latest addition is the new front which was just completed this fall. A complete line of men's clothing including furnishings and shoes are featured at this shop. Joe Sclarow, owner, has been in the clothing business for 35 years. He employs five permanent and several part time employees.
In the 1950s and 1960s, Joe’s Mens Shop was one of the favorite clothiers of students in Ames. Levi brand jeans were a staple along with Jarman and Crosby Square shoes. Two Sclarow brothers, Abraham (1893-1972) and Joseph (1899-1973), were the entrepreneurs. The campustown store was operated by Joe, and the downtown store by Abe. The business exemplifies the proverbial immigrant success story – two Ukrainian Jewish youths from Elisavetgrad fleeing the Bolsheviks and pursuing the American dream. Sclarow was chosen as the Americanized version of their family name, Sklerevsky. Abe and his father came to the U.S. first, and Joe and his mother and sisters followed five years later in 1917.
Joe soon found work in various clothing stores in Duluth and Minneapolis. For a time he worked in North Dakota before moving to Mason City. In 1944, he settled in Ames to start his own business, retiring here in 1970. The family lived at 1124 Roosevelt, 335 North Franklin and later at 2110 Burnett. Joe was active in Ames Chamber of Commerce, Masonic Lodge, and Beth El Jacob Synagogue in Des Moines.
Joe drove to Minneapolis several times a year to buy the latest fashions in men's clothing. He held a big sale annually in February. Droves of students took advantage of these sales to replenish their clothing stocks. During these busy times, Joe's wife, Bertha, and oldest daughter, Joan, would help at the store. Besides working as customer assistant, Joan occasionally decorated the store windows. For special events, such as Veishea, a giant pair of Levi jeans would be hung in front of the store.
Joe loved interacting with college students. In fact, he was known for his generous spirit in helping struggling students afford needed clothing. Joe would offer odd jobs at which they could earn money to pay off their purchases. These tasks included shoveling snow, mowing his lawn, planting a garden, laying a rock wall, or constructing a fireplace. Sometimes the yard would be mowed more than once a month by various students. Joe believed in instilling a strong work ethic rather than providing handouts.
An example of student appreciation of Joe can be illustrated by an incident in 1958. Joe and Bertha, with two of their children, were spending a weekend at Clear Lake. Late Saturday night, daughter Joan, who had stayed at home, received a call from the police department. Heavy rains north of Ames had caused flooding downstream, and campustown business owners along College Creek were being advised to clear their basements of merchandise. The Clear Lake cabin was without phone, so Joan arrived on the scene to be greeted by a large group of fraternity boys waiting to assist. They not only carried merchandise out of the basement, but helped carry it back in after the flood. When he returned, Joe was visibly touched by their generosity.