Life & Legacy: Briggs Clothiers
Story by Liesel Schmidt | Photography Courtesy of Briggs Clothiers
Family legacies are an amazing thing, connecting generations not only through blood but also through bonds created by something more tangible—something that has been built through the work of blood, sweat, tears, passion, and perseverance. In some cases, those legacies leave their mark on the community, as well; and as the family behind Briggs Clothiers can attest, their own family legacy has helped keep the Clarksville community both well-tailored and well-dressed for nearly fifty years, offering a type of service and care that sets them head and shoulders above the rest.
Originally founded in 1972 by Ernest Lafayette and Barbara Briggs and George and Grace Stanfill and operating under under the name Suit City, the store was later officially changed to Briggs Clothiers when the Briggs family assumed full ownership in 1986. As a former traveling sales rep for men’s clothing, Lafayette had a particular passion and knowledge for the needs of his clients; and when the shop opened, that personal touch, expertise, and experience helped create something that would last for years to come.
“He knew he could offer Clarksville a men’s clothing store built on quality, excellence, and—most of all—customer service,” says granddaughter Susan Briggs Hester. “He was all about spending time with people,” she recalls fondly.
Clearly, that translated into success in business as well as into other areas of his life. He fed that back into the community both by creating jobs and working with charitable causes throughout the area, passing that legacy onto his family. And when Lafayette passed away in 1994, the Briggs family was faced with a decision about what would come next for the store.
Naturally, the family wanted to continue on in the business that they had built, but it wasn’t a path without challenges. And as Lafayette’s son, Ernie, and his wife Rosamond worked tirelessly over the next years to keep the store not only afloat but also thriving, they proved that principal and heart are another legacy of the Briggs family name.
“My dad is well known throughout Clarksville as a man who will do everything he can to help in your time of need. He’s loyal, tenderhearted, and a friend to all."
- Susan Briggs Hester
“It’s often been said that he’ll give you the shirt off his back if he knows you need it. He’s been a loving husband for 45 years and a supportive father who never missed a baseball game or a dance recital, who took us to church every Sunday and taught us about the love of Jesus. And his favorite name is ‘Grandaddy,’” she goes on.
Balancing so much is not an easy feat by any means, especially when, as Susan recalls, her father put in so much time at work, never missing a day in more than 25 years. And in an age when countless brick-and-mortars are shutting their doors, staying true to a dream and continuing that legacy requires incredible dedication, determination, and faith.
“His faith is evident by the way he treats others, and on any given day, you can find someone stopping by the store to share something difficult in their life and he’ll drop what he’s doing to pray for them. He’s walked with the families of our community through many proms, job interviews, weddings, and funerals. He treats everyone like family, and you won’t find anyone more reliable than Ernie Briggs in craft or character,” Susan contends.
“In difficult seasons, Dad wondered if he should close the doors; but he kept them open and kept providing for his family, along with clothing his customers and meeting the needs of our community,” she goes on proudly. “He didn’t want to give up on that dream because he loves what he does and loves the ways it’s kept him connected to this community. When we drive around town in his truck, he takes the back roads and tells boyhood stories like being born in the old hospital on North 2nd Street, playing ball at Mericourt Park, falling in love with a Kentucky girl at Austin Peay, getting to referee in the NFL at Titans stadium, and living the good life with his family and many friends around this town that he loves. There are so many memories here, and it’s amazing to know that he—and the store—are part of all that history.”
Clearly, this is a woman inspired by her father, a woman who takes pride in what the Briggs name means. And so, too, does she take pride and inspiration in her father as an example as she and her husband, Brandon, take the reins of Briggs Clothiers, now that Ernie is moving into the next season of life. “When Brandon started working closely under my dad’s mentorship at the store in 2015, his creativity made him a natural fit. He quickly took to the skills of styling, fitting, and customizing wardrobes for our clients; and Dad has shared all of his knowledge with Brandon while Brandon has also greatly familiarized himself with the clothing industry and men’s fashion in today’s market.”
An important facet of staying relevant, Brandon’s new vision, combined with Ernie’s “old fashioned” touch, is sure to carry the business to continued success; and this new generation is looking forward to the future. “We’ve modernized our merchandise so that men of all ages have the experience of shopping with a true clothier and investing in a quality wardrobe, and I’ve updated our technology to improve the systems that create an exceptional Briggs experience,” Susan explains, clearly taking to her role in the business. “The change in ownership will naturally result in a shift in the culture of the store, but we never want to lose sight of the hard work my dad put in over the years and the gift of legacy we’ve received.”
“Above all, we want the store to carry its heritage, to dress the men of Clarksville in quality clothing while giving them an excellent experience and unparalleled customer service,” she continues. “This will always be a family business. I’m so proud of my husband and how he has transformed the store into a place that people love to shop while receiving the same care and attention that my dad always offers in abundance, and I’m proud of my dad for opening himself up to changing some things for the sake of the business and our community as well as his own family and future.”
With a legacy like theirs, that future is looking sharp.
Briggs Clothiers is located at 1990 Madison Street, Clarksville, Tennessee 37043. For more information, call (931) 647-6444 or visit www.briggsclothiers.com.