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Publication Date: Wednesday, November 12, 2003

Neil Siciliano shutters men's clothing shop Neil Siciliano shutters men's clothing shop (November 12, 2003)

By Jane Knoerle
Almanac Staff Writer

"I'm the only dinosaur in the business," says Neil Siciliano, the gregarious owner of Neil's Store for Men in Sharon Heights Shopping Center. "I've outlasted four (men's) stores in Menlo Park and nine in Palo Alto."

"My business hasn't been that bad," Mr. Siciliano explains, when asked last week about closing the store, although he has seen a slowdown, starting with 9/11. "I'm retiring because of my age (68)."

Future plans include playing more golf, travel, volunteer work, and practicing his skills on the barbecue.

Mr. Siciliano was born to sell. He's been in the business since 1958, when he began working for Jerry Jacobs, who owned Jerry's Store for Men on Santa Cruz Avenue in Menlo Park for 25 years.

Mr. Siciliano became a partner and stayed at Jerry's for 19 years.

Ledger Free of Menlo Park, who was shopping at Neil's last week, reminisced about the days when Jerry's outfitted the boys at Menlo School. Mr. Free said he'd been a customer since those early days and "I sort of follow Neil around."

Alan Brudos of Atherton was another longtime customer who was being fitted, probably for the last time, with a sport jacket from Neil's. Mr. Siciliano has outfitted two generations in the Brudos family and three generations for the families of Emmet Cashin and Warren Spieker.

From 1980 to 1989, Mr. Siciliano worked at Phelps-Terkel clothing store for men and women on Santa Cruz Avenue where he was vice president and owner. After Phelps-Terkel closed, he worked at Tearney's clothiers in Sharon Heights. When the Tearney's store closed, Mr. Siciliano re-opened it in 1995 as Neil's Store for Men.

He hasn't spent all his time with the men's clothing business.

"I've been on every committee in town," says Mr. Siciliano who is a past president of the Menlo Park Chamber of Commerce and has served on its board of directors three different times.

He also founded the Has-Been Club, a group of former chamber presidents who give the chamber "advice about how things were done in the old days." He's also been a member of the Kiwanis Club and the Italian-American and Amici clubs in Menlo Park.

Longtime customers are sure to miss his personal touch. He greets them by their first names, asks about their children and regales them with stories about his golf game.

Looking back, he recalls selling Pete McCloskey his first suit before he went to Congress. He also tells of a trunk showing last year when one of his customers purchased $40,000 worth of sports clothes and $13,000 in dress shirts. 'The rep said it was the biggest sale he'd ever had." he says.

Neil's employees, CFO Mike Beacom and tailor Javier Aguiniga, will stay with him until the store closes. He has until January 1 to sell all the merchandise, and another 30 days to dispose of the fixtures and furniture.

Mr. Siciliano says he's looking forward to retirement, more time with his wife, two children and two grandchildren. Longtime customers are sure to miss his personal interest and doing business in a store "where everybody knows your name."


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