Soli and Duet: There are now two versions of Jazzman on State Street for men and women
Menswear retailer opens a "women's version of Jazzman" in former Karen & Co. and Sassafras spaces
Jazzman is now a two-name act: Soli by Jazzman is the menswear shop (340 State St.) that’s been on State Street since 1980; Duet by Jazzman is the new women’s boutique that opened last month in the former Karen & Co. and Sassafras spaces at 307-309 State St.
“We felt the need to get another store on State Street and really wanted to have a women’s version of Jazzman,” says owner Paul Strong.
Many shoppers were disheartened to hear Karen & Co. announce its permanent closure last year. Stacey Scannell, owner of The Soap Opera (319 State St.) three doors down, says those two businesses that opened in the 1970s have been go-to shops for many. “I had a lot of people come in the last year [saying], ‘Oh no, Karen & Co. closed! Where am I going to get my clothing now? I always go there!” Scannell says.
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Strong echoes her thoughts, adding that Karen & Co.’s closure affected Jazzman as well, since they shared a large customer base.
“A lot of the women that came shopping there would then come over to us and shop for men, and then vice-versa,” Strong says. “It was a nice fit for this block to have the men’s and women’s together — so we’re kind of continuing on that same philosophy by creating Duet.”
It’s not just about strengthening the block for retail, but also offering visitors a variety of shopping experiences, Strong says. He notes that there’s a shortage of men’s clothing options around the downtown area.
“Right now we’re in a time when we’re experiencing delays in shipments and still in a pandemic. Yes, like any business, it has its challenges, but I think that’s part of the fun of it — being able to offer something that is unique to Madison,” Strong says. He credits his manager and confidante, Laura Gochberg — who has 20 years of experience working in the Karen & Co. space and is familiar with its former customers — for teaming up with him to expand the business.
Strong is most excited to explore women’s clothing and shoes, but many of the clothing lines are cross-listed for men and women. Shoppers can find fleece tops, flannel shirts and joggers in the casual section, and skirts, tops and blazers in the dressier section. Leather jackets, scarves, boots and other items can also be found in the women’s department. He says the clothing covers all the basics for nearly any occasion.
The original Jazzman store opened in 1975 in Wausau before relocating to Madison in 1980. The owners were both musically inclined, with a strong affinity for jazz music. Duet and Soli continue the music-inspired branding.
“Everyone loves music of some sort. Jazz is endless, timeless,” he says. “We hope that that reflects into some of the clothing that you’re buying.”
Beyond Strong’s focus on sustainable fashion — with the store’s historic tagline reading “Never Out of Style” — it’s also Jazzman’s long ties to State Street that motivated Strong to purchase the second storefront space.
“I really enjoy State Street, and I want to see it build back up to the level it could be again, because it is the gateway between the university and the Capitol,” he says. “And it shouldn’t be taken for granted — the diversity down here is so wonderful.”
Scannell says it’s critical to support local owners, and having another storefront to draw people to State Street is important.
“The first thing that came to my head was, ‘Wow, nobody better could have taken that space over, because they’re a similar type of business model, if you will, and just wonderful people. They care about this street,” Scannell says.
Both Jazzman stores are currently open seven days a week. Duet is open from 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. on Saturdays and from noon to 5 p.m. on Sundays.
Gaby Vinick is an editorial intern for Madison Magazine.
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