ROCKINGHAM — Frank Boyd Sr., 79, has operated Rockingham Tuxedo and Bridal Shop since 1966, spanning a total of 50 years in the community. He officially celebrated the golden anniversary on Jan. 23, but his story began as owner of a dry-cleaning shop.
“We operated the Community Drive-In Cleaners a few months prior to the establishment of Rockingham Tuxedo,” said Boyd. “My children Karen, Jacqueline and Frank Jr. would help us pick up dry cleaning clothes on Mondays and deliver them on Fridays. After the tuxedo shop was established, we dropped the cleaners and only operated the tuxedo shop. We realized that we could make more money without the many headaches of dry-cleaning clothes.”
The tuxedo and bridal shop was established on Jan. 23, 1966 by Boyd and his late wife, Mary L. Boyd.
“We left here (Rockingham) on Easter Monday night at about 7 p.m. on Jan. 22, 1966 and arrived in New York City and got about two or three hours of sleep,” he said. “We went to the garment district and bought a large amount of tuxedos and accessories on credit.”
Boyd said they left the Big Apple at 6:30 p.m. Jan. 28 and arrived back in Rockingham at 6:30 a.m. Jan. 29. In 1965 and 1966, most counties had two or three high schools, and the predominantly African-American schools had black principals.
“The black principals would let me come into their school and talk to their junior and senior boys,” said Boyd. “Most of the boys would order tuxedos from me. Therefore, I had about 250 orders before we made the trip to New York.”
Once back in Richmond County, the Boyds began cuffing pants and assembling tuxedo orders, and on Thursday, Jan. 29, started delivering the tuxedos to the various schools for the proms on Thursday and Friday night. They would pick them back up the following Monday and start the process over on Monday and Tuesday.
“We made enough money to pay the initial amount for the supplies that we ordered by September of 1966 and from there it was mostly profit,” said Boyd.
In the early ’70s, most of the schools began to integrate and black principals were given other positions. The white principals wouldn’t let Boyd come in to their schools, he said.
“By that time we were well-established and getting a lot of orders for tuxedos for weddings and other formal events from Richmond and other counties around Richmond,” he said. “We would serve wedding parties from other cities up to 70 miles from Rockingham. Therefore we did not miss the money from schools that the white principals would not let me come in.”
During the shop’s busy season, which runs from April to August, Boyd said he and his family would work all night to get the numerous tuxedos ready to be delivered on Thursdays and Fridays, but sometimes the students wouldn’t come to school on Monday. This would require Boyd to travel back to a particular school in order to get the tuxedo back.
Mary Boyd passed away in 2003, which left Frank by himself to run the shop. But he quickly found help in the form of Hannah Christmas.
“She does a great job, and she is willing to work as long as I can work,” said Boyd. “In fact, Hannah can operate the business as well as I can. She’s a smart lady. God has been extremely good to us. When the business seemed to be slow, God would shower us with more blessings. We are grateful for all the blessings that God has given us during the 50 years that we have been in business.
“Looking back over the years, I think that we have served with formalwear many families in the county by serving the sons, daughters, nieces and nephews. And in past years, we have served the fathers, mothers, uncles and aunts.”
Reach reporter Matt Harrelson at 910-817-2674, follow him on Twitter @mattyharrelson and listen to him at 12:30 p.m. Mondays through Fridays on G-104.3 FM.