David Talbott Collection is a special kind of retail store; one that takes you back to a time when brick-and-mortar stores reigned supreme. I’m talking about an era when retail shopping was a social pastime that fostered a sense of community—an era when shops were so familiar with their regulars, you’d think you were hanging out at your neighborhood pub.
Sounds romantic, right? It’s that mix of nostalgia and community that David Rabideau channels so well at his storefront on West Berry Street, where clothing meets camaraderie. At David Talbott, you’ll find men’s apparel, accessories, and grooming products from designer brands, all carefully curated by Rabideau himself.
Rabideau’s approach to fashion puts quality above all else, but offers a price point that’s approachable, so you don’t have to sacrifice style to meet your budget. What really makes Rabideau stand out, though, is his eagerness to get to know you and your personal taste, so he can provide you with a look that truly suits you. He’ll even go out of his way to do custom orders based on your preferences. One thing is for sure—you’ll end up leaving David Talbott with an elevated wardrobe and a new friend.
Meet David Rabideau, owner of the David Talbott Collection!
Molly: You consider your store an “old time haberdashery.” It’s a term we don’t hear very often anymore. Can you tell me more about David Talbott and what makes it different from other retailers in men’s apparel?
David: There are actually two questions here. The “Old Time Haberdashery” comes from my attempt to recreate an environment similar to the great men’s specialty shops of the past, specifically the 1940s-1960s. These were shops that offered fine quality merchandise, great customer service, and a strong commitment to customer retention. They knew most of their customers by name and their likes and dislikes.
Our mission is to provide quality designer merchandise at affordable prices. These concepts are in direct conflict with each other, but I felt we could find a way to obtain a collection of curated pieces from multiple sources, purchased in many cases one piece at a time. I have gone as far as London to obtain a very specific item for a customer. This process allows us to offer a lower price than full retail. So far it has worked very well, and we can offer much of our inventory at well below regular retail.
Molly: I understand that you’ve moved around over the years. Originally, you opened up shop in the City Exchange, but when that closed, you moved over to your current location on West Berry. How has your store evolved over the years? What’s special about this new location compared to your space in City Exchange?
David: The City Exchange gave me the opportunity to fulfill my dream of owning my own business and I am forever grateful for that. I had the pleasure of working with some wonderful small business owners there, and I was very disappointed when it closed.
I was struggling to find a new home for our shop when one of my customers came to our rescue. Eric Fisher, the owner of Midtowne Realty, had a small shop available in his apartment complex on West Berry.
Although small, it was more than double the size of the space we occupied at the City Exchange. He wanted us here and has been a huge advocate for our business. I can never thank him enough or adequately express my appreciation for what he has done for me.
With the larger store we have been able to expand our product lines and add accessories, like grooming products, luggage, hats, jewelry, and fragrance. This has been critical to our growth in a time when business casual has been on the rise, lowering the demand for dress clothing.
Molly: It sounds as though it was an intentional decision to stay downtown, even when City Exchange closed. Why is it important for you to be located Downtown Fort Wayne?
David: I moved to Fort Wayne from New England in 1993. At that time downtown retail had been gone for many years. In 2015 when I was seeking a potential space for our shop, I came downtown on a whim and to my surprise the revitalization of downtown was alive and well. There were 40 or so shops that seemed to be thriving, but there was something missing in the mix—a men’s store!
I visited the Downtown Improvement District offices and asked if they knew of any retail spaces available. They sent me to the City Exchange, and we had found a home!
I have never regretted my decision to be downtown. It has offered me a unique opportunity to live my dream and have a second act to my career.
Molly: Tell me about the “first act” of your career. What’s your background, and how did you end up in men’s fashion?
David: I am a baby boomer, and graduated from college in the 1970s with a Bachelor of Arts in Architecture. A recession had started, and there were no jobs available in that field. I needed to work, and I took a job with a large East Coast-based retail clothing chain called Anderson Little. I became a full time associate selling shirts and ties. I was good at it, loved it, and moved up in the company rapidly.
My career lasted over 39 years with some amazing retailers: Levi’s by Designs, Mikasa Home Goods, Tommy Hilfiger, and a number of privately owned chains. For the last 25 years I was in multi-store management at the district and regional level.
Molly: You mentioned you left New England to come here. What landed you in Fort Wayne? And what inspired your transition from retail management to opening your own store as an entrepreneur?
David: I came to Fort Wayne as a regional manager and worked with four different retailers based out of Fort Wayne until 2011, when the company I was with downsized, and my position was eliminated.
After four years of retirement I decided to finally do what I had dreamed about for years: open my own shop. Within six months we opened at the City Exchange, and now we’re starting our eighth year.
Molly: Who are some of your favorite designers, and why do they stand out to you?
David: Favorite designers? For most of my life it was Ralph Lauren and Brooks Brothers, exclusively. Since I have become a small business owner and a buyer, I have been exposed to so many amazing brands who have become so prominent in men’s clothing.
What is important to me is simple:fit, quality fabric, and exceptional workmanship. When I recommend a garment to a customer, it is critical that these three components are met. It is not about the label; it is about what the label represents.
I also prefer different brands for specific items. I love Peter Millar for almost anything. Ted Baker for sport coats and outerwear. 34 Heritage, Joe’s Jeans for denim and casual pants. Ralph Lauren for sportswear. Brooks Brothers for their 1818 label. Weatherproof for quality affordable sweaters.
Molly: If you could give one word of fashion advice to our readers, what would it be?
David: One word… quality.
Molly: This was fun. Thanks for having me out at your store. Is there anything else you want people to know about the David Talbott Collection?
David: A few things… we just started our eighth year in October!
No, my name is not David Talbott. Robert Talbott is another longtime favorite designer of mine. So, the business name is a combination of my name and his.
And none of this would have happened without the amazing customers who have kept this store alive for the past seven years—people I never would have met without this tiny shop. They have been incredible supporters for this business, and are more than just customers to me. Thank you so much!
See what’s trending at David Talbott Collection. Follow them on Facebook or stop by 532 West Berry Street to see their styles for yourself!
David Talbott Collection’s hours:
Tuesday – Friday: 11am to 5pm
Saturday: 11am to 4pm
Molly Conner is a Fort Wayne native and freelance writer. Having lived in Downtown Fort Wayne throughout her twenties, she loves watching her stomping grounds grow. With her love of storytelling and community in tow, she’s eager to tell Downtown Fort Wayne’s story piece-by-piece—exploring the people, spaces, and organizations that make it thrive.