If not for Jazzman, there would be an almost devastating absence of quality menswear throughout the stretch of State Street. Located on State and Gorham, the elegant boutique catches the eye of passersby with its classically sophisticated display. With the shop’s 40th anniversary this past year, owner Craig Butenhoff traced his retail endeavors back to the ’70s in Wausau, Wisconsin, co-owning a boutique with a young Oregon couple.
“They needed somebody, so they hired me,” Butenhoff said. “They immediately took me to trade shows, and I was hooked.”
After the couple decided to move back home, Butenhoff and his previous employer agreed to open Jazzman in Wausau in 1975, focusing on menswear. Five years later, Butenhoff found his company in the midst of the Madison hustle and bustle on State Street. An avid jazz vinyl collector, he called upon his deep musical appreciation for the perfect store name — “Jazzman,” which Butenhoff described as “timeless.”
Jazzman has successfully captured an old school aesthetic. Utilizing the natural light on Gorham and selective display methods, Butenhoff has made a concerted effort to properly flaunt the store’s quality merchandise.
“We put a lot of romance into it, just by using wide hangers and giving the product a little room to showcase itself,” Butenhoff said.
With a team of only eight people, including Butenhoff, Jazzman constantly upholds the integrity of true customer service. Even with hectic weekends, such as the first of their annual 50 percent off sale, the boutique sees customer satisfaction as imperative.
The small space enables intimate and genuine patron concern, but never inhibits Butenhoff and his staff as they deliver quality service on busy days.
Jazzman’s focus of quality not only applies to the store’s display and customer service efforts, but to the clothing itself. Receiving apparel from choice menswear lines, such as Scotch & Soda, Ben Sherman and 7 Diamonds, Butenhoff believes that quality comes with a bit of financial sacrifice.
“I know we’re not cheap, but we’re not crazy expensive,” Butenhoff said. “If you’ve got the great gift, though, you’re in.”
Within the walls of Jazzman, what’s a “great gift” to justify the price? As it would appear, any purchase could be a worthwhile venture, due to a wide selection of quality fabrics, silhouettes and accessories. Even women can benefit from the menswear boutique, either seeking to buy gifts for men or even dapper outerwear for themselves. And according to its patrons, many of whom have returned to Madison from big cities, Jazzman truly has it all.
“The line that I love is, ‘It’s all there in New York, but you guys just have it in for us,’” Butenhoff said.
Butenhoff takes into consideration a wide range of customers, regarding Jazzman’s demographic as ages 16 to 75. But it would appear as though no matter the customer age, there remains a definitive surge, fall and comeback of trends over the decades — currently, the slimmed up silhouette persists as a favored look.
As for Jazzman’s future plans, Butenhoff sees no need for immediate change. He embraces a relaxed approach to business, and believes Jazzman will persist as a popular source for quality menswear.
“I’m going with the flow at the moment,” Butenhoff said. “We could be a stodgy old men’s store, and probably do OK — but it isn’t that kind of store. You know, at this point, we’re just in the groove.”