It took some cleaning, but the effort paid off.
When Craig Butenhoff and Gary Straub opened Jazzman on State Street in 1980, they first had to remove a film of ink from the walls. The store had previously been home to the Wisconsin Blueprint Company. Residue from the blueprint ink floated in the air and coated the walls and ceilings.
The pair (current co-owner Paul Strong joined Jazzman later) scrubbed down the walls with a mop, taking breaks to rest on cots or wash their hands with a hose in the basement. It was not an especially glamorous beginning for a store that has become a local destination for fashion-conscious shoppers.
“When it did open, that first weekend we saw the interest and we looked at each other and said, ‘This is going to work,’ ” Butenhoff recalled.
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They first opened Jazzman in Wausau, but after five years decided to move the business to Madison. The name was selected during a brainstorming session while they played music from Butenhoff’s collection of vinyl record albums. Straub later moved to Door County and Butenhoff now owns Jazzman with Strong, a man he calls “a genius at merchandising.”
Butenhoff has seen shifts in trends over the years, and he said men’s fashions today are in a good spot. Current men’s clothing is designed to be fitted, producing a more flattering silhouette. Men’s dress shirts can have playful prints or floral patterns and even corporate suits can be accessorized with colorful socks, bold watches or bow ties.
Jazzman carries suits, footwear, designer denim and sportswear by clothing lines including Fred Perry, Scotch & Soda, 7 Diamonds, Penguin and Ben Sherman. Former Badgers football player Nick Toon has shopped there and Super Bowl winning quarterback Russell Wilson, another ex-UW star, recently stopped in and bought a blazer by Tallia, Butenhoff said. The dream Butenhoff first had in central Wisconsin has brought him to a career with friends in Downtown Madison.
“It’s been a wonderful journey,” he said. “We have three generations of family who shop here, and there’s been so many young people that have worked here and we’ve been able to meet along the way.”