Merchant of the Month: Jean Lorenzo of Bernard’s Formal Wear

Though Jean Lorenzo has owned Bernard’s Formal Wear since 1971, her attire and her personality are really more classy than formal. She wears a patterned blue scarf around her neck and her cheerful red sweater matches one of the tuxedo vests on display in the shop. From first impression, Jean is clearly a class act.

Born and raised in Durham, Lorenzo first opened her tuxedo shop on the corner of Club and Buchanan Boulevards, near Northgate Mall. In 1980, the shop moved to it’s first location on Ninth Street (now Wavelengths Salon), making her one of the longest standing businesses in the district. In 1985, Bernard’s moved to its current location where a heart-shaped display of colorful ties beams out onto the sidewalk from the window. The inside of Bernard’s is elegant but cozy, with gleaming wood floors and mirrors for grooms and prom-goers trying on vests and tuxedos. Though Bernard’s carries formal wear exclusively for men, Lorezno loves working with the brides and prom dates (who, let’s face it, are making most of the decisions anyway!).

Lorenzo has tried to retire twice, but so far hasn’t been able to follow through.  Though she loves her home in northern Durham, she just can’t stay away from her Ninth Street shop. “This is my favorite place to be,” she says. Her employees – several of whom have been with her more than thirty years – feel the same.

A few of Lorenzo’s favorites:

Favorite singer: Celine Dion

Favorite travel destination: The Southwest (Last year she visited San Antonio; this year she’s headed for New Mexico!) 

A few things that mean the world to her: Friends, family, and coffee.