Blakley-Mitchell fine men’s clothing store isn’t just a part of downtown renewal; it’s a part of the original downtown.
The store has operated continuously in Downtown Kingsport since 1920 – and, at its current Broad Street location, since 1936 when its building was constructed.
“It’s one of the oldest continuously-operated businesses in Kingsport,” said Bill Testerman, whose Blakley-Mitchell store was Fuller & Hillman before his family bought it in 1987.
He, his father, and his brother bought the Kingsport store to expand their business from Bristol, where their State Street location is also an old downtown original. Clothing, he said, has always been the family business.
Bill’s father started in the clothing business as a salesman in the 1950s. As each of the Bristol store’s three owners retired, he bought their part of the business. As his sons grew up, he involved them in the business, too.
“I cut my teeth in a clothing store; ever since the day I was born, my father sold clothing,” Bill said. “When I graduated from ETSU, my dad said, ‘I’ll see you at work tomorrow.’”
That was in 1984. Hugh was already well-established in Bristol, so in 1987, Bill moved to Kingsport to start his career with a Kingsport store – and has raised his family in the same business that was his family’s bed and butter when he was growing up.
The brothers still share ownership of the company, and Bill runs the Kingsport store while Hugh runs the Bristol store.
Blakley-Mitchell specializes in custom-fitted suits, sport coats, pants and dress shirts for the customer who wants something unique.
The lines of clothing and sportswear sold there include Hart Schaffner Marx, St. Croix, Robert Graham, Nat Nast, Lacoste, Enro, Forsyth, and Pendleton. Shoe selections include Allen Edmonds and Florsheim, and Blakley-Mitchell carries the largest selection of Stetson hats in the region.
Bill said his store carries a good selection of sizes, including big and tall. He takes pride in fitting customers well, and the store has its own tailor shop for alterations.
“We are the last of the full-service men’s stores,” he said. “Men don’t have time to shop, so we understand that when they come in our store, they need to find what they need, get it fitted and be ready to go.”
Good quality items may cost a little more up front, Bill said, but they more than pay for themselves in quality, fit and durability, vastly outlasting their low-priced counterparts.
He said quality and service are what set him apart from competitors – and he specializes in guiding customers to find the right attire for occasions when they might not know what to wear – whether it’s a job interview, corporate outing or a golf trip.
“We carry all the hard-to-find accessories that a gentleman is looking for,” he said. “I carry everything the man needs from head to toe.”
With the long history of the business behind him, Bill said Blakley-Mitchell continues to change and adapt toward the future. He said they look forward to meeting men’s clothing needs in the Tri-Cities for many years to come.