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The last suit seller in Marshall is Mister Cool
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Joe Cool relies on his data base and memory when dealing with customers at his men's clothing store in Marshall, Minnesota. (MPR Photo/Cara Hetland)
Mister Cool's Clothing is the last men's clothing store in the town of Marshall, Minnesota. There used to be four men's stores on Main Street. But after the mall opened, one by one the clothing stores either closed or followed the crowd to the mall. But one man kept his business on Main Street. His store is the only place for about 80 miles where men can buy a suit.

Marshall, Minn. — The man behind the counter at Mister Cool's is Joe Cool. Yes, that's his real name.

Joe Cool opened his clothing store in 1972. He's certain there are men in town who still have a sport coat in their closet from back then. But there are times, he says, men may need something a little more in style.

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Image A fixture in Marshall

"I've always said if it wasn't for wise mothers, daughters and girlfriends, I'd be out of business," says Cool.

Joe Cool keeps track of what his customers buy, as well as the color and style they like. He relies on his computer data bank -- and his own memory.

"If somebody says, 'Well, I've been wearing a 34 forever,' I say, 'Maybe the pants are sized wrong now, and you'll have to go a 36.' I want them to look good, let's put it that way," says Cool. "When they leave here, I want them to feel good about themselves, look presentable and be the way I like to see it."

Joe Cool says he sees his biggest business around special events -- graduations, weddings and funerals. Over the last 30 years, Cool has sold a lot of boys their first suit. With each suit comes a lesson.

"If they come in to buy a shirt and a tie, I make sure when they leave here they know how to tie a tie. They'll say, 'Leave it tied,' but I make them show me," says Cool.

If it wasn't for wise mothers, daughters and girlfriends, I'd be out of business.
- Joe Cool, men's clothier

Joe Cool has even given refresher courses over the phone. He's opened the store at midnight, and on Sundays, when somebody needed last-minute dress clothes.

He's the only guy who sells suits in the region, but he can't make it on suits alone. So Cool sells sportswear, shoes and even socks and underwear. The only thing he doesn't offer is winter coats.

He has every size known to man -- pants with a 29-inch waist to a 56, and jackets from a 38 to a 60-long.

Bill Toulouse is a 48-long. He's an attorney in Marshall, and he buys all of his suits at Mister Cool's Clothing.

"I just don't go in there to browse. When I go in there I'm there to buy something. I think a lot of men are like that," says Toulouse. "And so, I say to myself, 'I need a new blue suit.' I go in there, and let's say he's got five or six blue suits in my size. And they're exactly what you're going to find down in Sioux Falls or Minneapolis. I can go in one store, spend 15 minutes or half hour trying them on, versus a whole day. I don't see why I need to spend that time shopping when I can do other things, like play golf."

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Image Father and son

For Bill Toulouse, shopping on Main Street is also about loyalty -- small business owners supporting other small businesses.

Joe Cool doesn't shop anywhere but Marshall either. He's been the president of the Chamber of Commerce. He says he's only been in the local Wal-Mart once. This winter Wal-Mart expands to a super store. Joe Cool doesn't see them as competition, except where denim is concerned.

"I think it'll hurt littler towns more so than myself. It'll bring in more traffic (to Marshall), but it'll hurt the Tracys, the Canbys. Because of the Super Wal-Mart, (people will say) 'Let's go to Marshall," says Cool. "As far as what I carry and they carry, I make sure I don't have any brands that they have."

At the age of 63, Joe Cool is in no hurry to retire. His son Brad is working alongside him, learning the business, and will one day take over the store. Brad Cool says what his dad does with customers works, so he won't change a thing. Joe Cool is only certain about two things when it comes to the future -- prices and styles will change.

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