While corporate retail giants such as Sears, Kmart, and Payless have closed or are planning to close local stores, one home-grown business owned by a Lancaster-born resident has successfully weathered what many call the dot com apocalypse. David Guenther, owner of JDavid’s Custom Clothiers in the Valencia Mall, has been in business in the Santa Clarita area for 37 years.
Crediting his commitment to friendly customer service, fine quality clothing, and expert tailoring, Guenther reflected on his brand’s longevity as he sat beside his store’s fireplace on a rainy winter afternoon.
The Lancaster resident admitted that owning his own business was not a part of his childhood dreams. Like most active boys, his first ambition was to be a professional baseball player or a cop. When he was in high school, law enforcement became his main focus, but he couldn’t get in to the Sheriff’s Academy until he was 21, so the teenager took a part-time Christmas job at Parker’s Men’s Wear in 1982. It was there that he met his future wife, Denise, who worked at a nearby jewelry store and shared lunch hours with David.
Owner Larry Parker, who closely supervised his six stores in the Southern California area, took note of Guenther’s conscientious demeanor and hired him full-time, making him manager of his store in Granary Square in 1985.
In 1987, David was finally old enough to pursue his boyhood dream of attending the Sheriff’s Academy and was about to give Parker a six-month notice when the store owner surprised him with a proposal for Guenther to buy one of the Parker’s Men’s Wear businesses.
The excitement of putting his five years of sales and management experience to the test was irresistible and later that year, David and Parker worked out a financial arrangement so he could buy the Valencia store.
Over the next eight years, Guenther grew the business under the name JDavid’s and became active in the community, donating clothing and tailoring services to many charitable fundraisers, including fashion show benefits, which featured his clothing lines. His expanding business necessitated a few location changes and in 1995 the store relocated to the Old Road.
The evolution of his business mirrored a growing family life, which began with his marriage to Denise in 1983, and the subsequent birth of two children, Ricky and Krysta. The everyday responsibilities of work and family took a dramatic turn in 2008, when a brain aneurism burst, catapulting David into a life-and-death struggle with less than a two percent chance of survival. David credits his strong family support in helping him beat the odds as well as the expertise of a top UCLA surgical team.
He also has praise for his dedicated staff for keeping the business alive during his yearlong recovery. David’s “return from the dead” sparked a new direction for JDavid’s when the Westfield head of leasing approached him at the Old Road store and offered him a premier location in the Valencia Mall. “There I was, half bald, leaning on a walker, and being told that ‘the ball was in my court,’” said Guenther. “The economy was not at its best, but the agent said that with the name recognition of our store, he was sure we could profit from the outstanding visibility.”
The prediction proved accurate. Today, JDavid’s serves not only the local SCV residents, but also professional athletes and businessmen in 31 states. It is not uncommon for Guenther to be traveling to Las Vegas to deliver custom shirts to Pete Rose, the all time Major League Baseball leader in hits (4,256 hits), or across the country to put together custom outfits for corporate executives.
“I read in a recent business publication that my store is one of the oldest independently owned private businesses in the SCV,” concluded David. “It gives me almost as much pleasure as it does spending quality time with my 3-year-old granddaughter, Addie.”
And David hasn’t completely left his baseball fantasy behind. In the past he has acted as a baseball scout for the St. Louis Cardinals and the Pittsburgh Pirates, as well as being the official scorer for the Lancaster JetHawks, a minor league affiliate of the Colorado Rockies.