Relationships, not just retail: Local clothing store owner passes the torch to a new generation
Greiner’s is shown on East Silver Springs Boulevard in Ocala on Wednesday, May 4, 2022. [Bruce Ackerman/Ocala Gazette] 2022.
Editor’s Note: Sadie Fitzpatrick uses this space to explore the character and quirks that make Ocala uniquely wonderful and occasionally irksome.
A new suit can take you places.
A new suit can dance with your high school sweetheart at your senior prom, help you land that coveted job, and start a new life together at your wedding.
For almost 60 years, men in Ocala have purchased their suits for these major milestones from Greiner’s, a haven for fine men’s fashion located in downtown Ocala.
The witness to many of these men’s major life events has been David DeSantis, owner and operator of Greiner’s.
“It is an honor that people trust me and want to invite me in to what’s going on in their lives. We’ve dressed men for proms, graduations, weddings, and unfortunately, funerals,” DeSantis explained.
After a 28-year stint as Ocala’s go-to fine clothier, DeSantis is moving on.
In April, he closed on the sale of Greiner’s to Steve and April Dixon along with Chris Harris, the owners of Beau Outfitters in Jacksonville. Greiner’s will retain its name, its staff, and its current product line.
Augie Greiner opened his eponymous clothing store in 1962. The store soon evolved into a fine clothing establishment, becoming Ocala’s very own haberdashery.
DeSantis served as a mainstay at Greiner’s since he began working there as a fresh-faced college student in July 1994. He was brought on as a business partner in 2001 when Bill Davis purchased the business from Augie Greiner. In 2013, DeSantis purchased Greiner’s from Davis, becoming sole owner and operator.
Over the years, DeSantis revolutionized this venerable men’s clothing store by introducing a blend of up-and-coming clothing brands like Free Fly with more well-established brands like Hickey Freeman. He also offered clothing at varying price points, providing quality products for every budget. He transformed Lady Greiner’s, the women’s side of the store, from a dated establishment to a light and airy destination for beautiful, on-trend women’s clothing in Her Kloset at Greiner’s. The attention to detail and excellent customer service Ocalans grew to expect from Greiner’s never wavered despite the major changes brought to the brand.
DeSantis understands the unique nature of his former job. It allowed him to serve as a small part of an individual’s momentous life events. The intimate, trusting environment he created made people feel comfortable enough to chat with him as he carefully took their measurements while standing before the large fitting mirror.
He noted, “Through this business, I’ve been able to meet so many people that I wouldn’t have been able to meet otherwise. I’ve been able to meet a lot of interesting people and hear a lot of interesting stories. I’m fascinated by what people do or what people have done. There are so many different things out there—people work so hard, they’re so creative. It’s just so fascinating to hear about people’s lives, especially for someone like me who was born and raised in Ocala and haven’t really traveled a lot. To hear what people have done in their lives is just amazing.”
Shopping at Greiner’s is an unhurried, pleasant experience, a rarity in this age of fast-paced consumerism. Upon entering the store, you are greeted enthusiastically by name. There are no pushy salespeople, just DeSantis and one or two of the high school boys on staff to help find any sizes or styles you may need. You can linger among the tables of neatly folded shirts on display or run your hands along the beautiful, buttery soft fabric of the suit jackets lining the walls. You’re encouraged to take your time finding the right item of clothing for you or your loved one. Once you’ve made your purchase, your item is carefully wrapped in tissue paper and placed in the distinct green paper bag with gold embossed lettering that is Greiner’s signature.
DeSantis learned the styles and fits that best suited his regular customers, committing their measurements to memory. He would pull aside shirts or ties he thought the wives and daughters of his customers could purchase for birthdays, Christmas, and Father’s Day. Through years in the business, he can now pinpoint a man’s shirt size based on the breadth of his shoulders.
This convivial atmosphere he provided at Greiner’s created customers and friends for life.
“I grew up going with my dad to Greiner’s. A couple of months ago, I took my 4-year-old son to Greiner’s to get fitted for a suit for my brother’s wedding with my grandpa, who is my son’s great grandpa. It’s pretty cool that four generations shopped for the same suit,” said Danielle Hampy, an Ocala native.
DeSantis believes in giving back to the community that has given him so much. He’s done so by providing auction items for nonprofit events, sponsoring youth sports teams, and collecting funds for a variety of community causes. DeSantis never boasts about his involvement with these philanthropic endeavors.
Ryan Barhoush, who grew up in Ocala and currently lives in Washington, D.C., offered a testament to DeSantis’ under-the-radar generosity. He said, “David and humility go hand-in-hand. When I was 19, the week my mom passed away, I came in to Greiner’s to buy a suit for the funeral. My dad was in the Middle East taking care of my uncle, so I didn’t have a way to pay for the suit while he was gone. David still let me pick out a great suit, tailored it, rush ordered it so I would have it in time, and told me I could pay for it whenever my dad got back in town. It was one of the nicest things anyone did for me, and I will always remember that.”
Though DeSantis isn’t sure what his next career move will entail, he’s embracing the beauty of the unknown. He is confident that the Dixons and Harris, along with new general manager Alex Hebert, will continue to take care of Greiner’s loyal customers.
“In the end, people don’t come to Greiner’s just to buy clothes—they come for service, for community, for friendship. That’s what they can find,” said DeSantis.