A RETAILER who’s name has become synonymous with menswear in York is celebrating 50 years in business in the city.

Robert Smart Menswear, in Low Petergate, is marking half a century since the business’s owner Robert Smart opened the doors to his first venture in the city with the launch of Man at Ease in New Street.

Mr Smart opened numerous stores over the proceeding five decades, before consolidating his brands into the present shop, where he is now joined by his son Ashley and daughter Emma, who took over the reins when suffered a period of ill health.

Mr Smart said: “Both Ashley and Emma stepped up their work loads. Ashley took up my mantle with positive results, and Emma showed how to multi-task by running the office, managing and buying for the country shop, as well as assisting in the control of our Mannix store.

“Today this is how things stand with the offspring improving the performance of the company during these difficult times on the high street.

“It is surprising to me to be here after 50 years when I see what’s happened to fellow independent retailers, and those in menswear itself. There used to be quite a big group of us in York.

“We must have something special, and I think its customer service, a degree of quality, interesting windows and good brands.”

Mr Smart was inspired in business by his father George Smart, who spent his career in the menswear industry, finishing as manager/buyer of the mens’ and boyswear departments at the Darlington branch of Binns.

When Mr Smart was faced with three career options as a youngster, the navy, catering, or retail, he decided to follow in his father’s footsteps and started as a trainee at Bainbridge Barker in Darlington.

After going on to work at the newly opened Binns in Middlesbrough, and building relationships with suppliers, Mr Smart spied an empty shop in York city centre in 1967 and opened Man at Ease in New Street.

In his second year of trading in York, Mr Smart saw 23 Lendal had become available, so he took that on too, opening a new shop aimed at a “younger, trendier trade” and called it Easy Guy.

In the early seventies Mr Smart opened two further shops, Squire at 43 Low Petergate, and the first under his own name Robert Smart Menswear at 67.

After deciding it was a better financially to be your own landlord Mr Smart purchased 61 to 63 Low Petergate. The council had previously knocked down number 59 in the early sixties because it was structurally unsafe.

Mr Smart decided to bring back number 59, building on what had become “Buskers Corner” and was given the go ahead for a wrap around, four-storey building, mirroring that on the corner of Stonegate and Low Petergate.

In August 1982 the doors opened to the new larger store. However earlier the doors had shut at Easy Guy, Man at Ease and Squire. The original Robert Smart at number 67 became Smart Country, which still exists today but at number 65. The shop then opened a new division Mannix in the 90’s with a focus on younger fashion, which operated until 2014, when it was realigned to Robert Smart menswear, which now employs a team of 13 staff.