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Leons: 25 years in the Mall
Leon Shelkoff keeps old customers, makes new ones with variety
W 060809 LEONS 01
Leon Shelkoff is shown at Leon's in the Statesboro Mall. Shelkoff and his wife opened the clothing store 25 years ago.
     Using an eclectic mix of inventory to lure customers into his clothing store, Leon Shelkoff is a master of retail parlaying his unique sense of style into a successful business. For the last 25 years, Shelkoff has operated Leon's Menswear, a clothing mainstay in the Statesboro Mall.
      "When I graduated from the University of South Carolina, I came to work for my brother-in-law at Hi-Fi Sounds in the Mall here," Shelkoff said. "Even though my parents told me not to go into retail, I just loved it."
      Shelkoff said he decided to open his own store shortly after his wife graduated from Georgia Southern in 1984.
      "Clothing is what I knew, so I decided to get into that business," he said. "It has been a lot of fun."
      Leon's is an indescribable mix of urban, contemporary, formal, and western wear, primarily for men. From dress shoes to cowboy boots and hats, Leon's literally has it all. It is a "one-stop-shop", and that is exactly what Shelkoff wants it to be.
      "My brother was just wandering through the Statesboro Mall one day and ventured into Leon's," said Shirley Mincey, branch manager of the Park Avenue Bank office on Northside Drive in Statesboro. "He came out with a suit, shoes, and everything that you would need to go with it, including a shirt and tie. He said that Leon was so helpful that it made it really easy."
      Mincey also happens to be Shelkoff's banker at Park Avenue. "The thing about Leon is that he is very friendly and organized," she said. "And, he is very smart when it comes to being a business owner. He is in tune with what is going on in the business community around him. Most importantly, Leon really, really enjoys what he does."
      Shelkoff has always treated his business as if it were a family affair on both the business side and the customer side.
      "Both of our children have worked in this store," he said. "Our two daughters are now in college, and don't live here, but they learned about business and customer service working here. As far as our customers go, we treat them like family, like we would want to be treated."
      Shelkoff greets his customers with a big smile and a "can do" attitude.
      "Sometimes we don't have the exact size or exactly what they are looking for, but we can get it," he said. "I will do whatever I need to get that customer what he is looking for. Service is what we are all about."
      Shelkoff's daughter Jules is a University of Georgia student that loves working with her father when she gets the opportunity.
      "I just love working with and talking to people," Jules Shelkoff said. "People really light up when they come in here and see everything that dad has. It really is amazing."
      Over the years, Leon's has been in four different locations within the mall. Shelkoff has been in his current location, next to the mall entrance of JC Penny for the past nine years. Shelkoff believes in the mall concept, and feels that it has been the cornerstone to his success.
      "The Statesboro Mall gets a tremendous amount of traffic all through the day and into the night," he said. "The larger chains bring the shoppers in, and we benefit from that. When you lose a store like Goody's, it hurts. That affects everyone's traffic, but the mall is still the highest traffic shopping area in Statesboro. That is why I have been here this long."
      Shelkoff said he knows that there may be a perception about the type of product that he carries, but he wishes that people would just come in and take a look.
      "I just say, don't judge a book by its cover," he said. "People who have never been in my store are always surprised at the diversity of our merchandise, and frankly how hip it is. You really just have to see it. It is hard to describe, but that is the role of the small business owner. We fill a niche. We aren't just like the chain stores. We are your independents."


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