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Oldest men’s clothing shops in town in continuous operation

January 21, 2012

For Starkville Daily News

The Aug. 17, 1945, Starkville News announced that "this progressive firm, Smith & Byars, one of the youngest in Starkville, has operated here since March 1944. The firm is composed of Harry Smith and Bill Byars, both active in civic, religious and business circles. At least Bill was active locally until he took active charge of the war for the Navy in the Pacific.
"Before coming to Starkville, Mr. Smith was associated for 16 years with Pryor’s in West Point as merchandise manager and buyer. He was also buyer of Pryor’s Men’s Store here until he and Mr. Byars purchased the local Pryor’s store. Mr. Byars was manager of the local Pryor’s store at the time it changed hands. Pryor’s store started in 1913.
"This progressive store has enjoyed a nice business since its opening and Mr. Smith is pleased and impressed with the response to their efforts to serve the people of this territory. Both members of the firm have an abiding faith in the future of Oktibbeha County.
"Latest fashions and only high class merchandise is carried in stock at moderate prices. Some of their featured merchandise includes Stetson hats, Arrow shirts, Florsheim shoes and Curlee clothes. They also feature a line of fine made to measure clothes."
The 1928 Street Directory shows Pryor’s located at 122 Main St. with the phone number being 507. An old hand drawn map of downtown shows Bell Café located on the south corner of Lafayette and Main Street with Pryor’s being in the next building to the west which today is Smith & Byars.
Those involved with Smith & Byars over its 67 years of operation are J. Harry Smith, W. V. Byars, H. Stokes Smith, Olen Byars, Mickey McLellan and Sammy J. Smith.
2012 will mark a milestone for Sammy J. Smith, the owner of Smith & Byars in Starkville. It will be his 50th year of being associated with Starkville's Smith & Byars.
Significant facts concerning Smith & Byars are that the store is:
- One of the oldest men’s clothing shops in Mississippi in continuous operation.
- One of the first to use structural glass as a store front, colors were maroon and white.
- One of the first stores in Starkville to be air-conditioned.
- One of the first to have a shop exclusive for college students, The Squire Shoppe, which featured Ivy League fashions.
- Opened Smith & Byars in West Point in 1958 with Stokes Smith, son of Harry Smith and Olen Byars brother to W. V. (Bill) Byars.
- Opened Smith & Byars in Columbus in 1973 with Stokes Smith and Mickey McLellan.
An old adage says, “There is truth in advertising.”  Searching through some old newspapers, a collection of vintage Smith & Byars advertisements of the 1940s is shown below. Check them out and see the truths they hold.
Throughout the years, the store had two slogans. The first one appearing on all ads was “There is No Substitute for Quality.” The later slogan was “The Place To Go For The Brands You Know.”
Other ads read as follows:
"Authentic Spring Display Mr. C. S. Brown of Hopkins Tailoring Co. will be in our store Wed.-Thur., Jan. 29-30 showing the newest fashions and fabrics in men’s fine custom tailoring made to order-correctly fitted."
"How is your stock of socks? New socks 45 cents up Wilson Wear by Wilson Brothers. Take a quick look in your socks drawer! If your supply is low, why not come in and see our selection of Wilson Brothers Socks in anklets and regular lengths….clocks, plains and sharp new colors. Lots of wear and plenty of washings in every pair."
"Just Arrived! Clothes that can take it by “Happy Kid.” A boy’s clothes have to see him through a lot of fun and trouble. Our boys’ wear is designed to keep its style through a rough and tumble life. Jackets $3.95 up, Slacks $2.35 up, Shorts $1.95. Winners for spring."
"Wembley Ties in Country Club Stripes Stimulating new colors in harmonized stripe from Wembley’s Spring Collection. Ideal for business or weekend wear and advertised by LIFE."
"Advances to the Head…Class! You’ve a lot to learn about comfort if you’ve never worn a Raja soft straw! Study the weave … Study the lightness … Study the style of these superb new straws for warm weather. You’ll wonder how you ever summered without one! You’ll wonder, too, how Raja does it for only…Rajas soft straws -  Stetson-Disney-Portes at $2.95-$7.50."
"'Here’s ‘Akom-er'”
Akom as advertised in Sat. Ev. Post, Colliers, Esquire, Field and Stream, Yachting. The man in Akom for carefree comfort pep shirt and sport style. The Akom Pep shirt, featuring the action sleeve is the perfect garment. Aridex water repellent. Glorious colors that are washable: California gold, Marlin blue, beach tan and white."
"Focused on Father! Parker “51” Pens, Wilson Bros. hand painted ties, Parker pen and pencil sets, Seaforth Toilet articles, Overnite zipper bags and traveling cases, Royal Lounging robes, Hickok jewelry, Arrow white and colored handkerchiefs, Disney straw hats."
"Father’s Day, June 16. Remember him with the sports clothes he admires. Father’s Day is a special day and special days are best remembered with gifts that you know are favorites.  Most fathers love leisurely sport clothes and no doubt yours is one of them.  Nothing could be more appropriate than a gift from our store."
The tradition of shopping at Smith & Byars extended through three generations of the Tom Jones Family, all architects — Tom, grandfather; Shelton, son; and Briar, grandson. Briar Jones tells of his memories of shopping at the store:
"I have many fond memories of shopping with Sammy Smith at Smith & Byars. Mr. Smith understands the art of retail. Even from a young age, I can't recall a time that I wasn't greeted by name with a warm smile and a handshake. The clothing and accessories Mr. Smith sells are of great quality and of timeless design. I still treasure and wear some of the shirts he sold me when I was a high school student in the late 1980s, although I must admit those shirts are now relegated to Saturday work around the house, not because they are out of style, but because they are thread bear from use. I just can't stand to part with them. We are lucky to have great men's shops right here in Starkville, Mississippi." 
In closing, Sammy J. Smith said: "In this fast moving world, our shop offers a steady pace of trust, value, quality and service.
‘Standing out Quietly' has been a Smith & Byars tradition for 67 years, and that tradition continues today."

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