If you look up the word “haberdasher” in the dictionary, not only would you surely find that the word means “a dealer in men’s clothing and accessories” you also might actually find a picture of Mike Carter. After all, he has been in the clothing business for nearly 50 years.
The Phoenix native first got his taste of business in high school when he ran home deliveries of groceries and soon thereafter, worked in sales for Diamond’s Department Stores.
“I learned early on that there are products and there are customers, and someone has to create the bridge,” Carter said. “Ultimately it’s all about knowing your customers and extending good service.”
The formula is working, as the 70-year-old just renewed his lease and Carter’s Men’s Clothing on the northeast corner of Camelback and 44th Street will begin its 35th year in business, selling what he calls “American classic clothing.”
Carter honed his business skills in the 70s while working at a Tempe clothing store and later, at the popular Johns & Co. He then opened his own store with the help of nine investors who shared his vision for a classic men’s store. “Eventually I bought them out and they all doubled their money, so I guess we were all fortunate,” he says with pride.
“Of course we’ve had our ups and downs as clothing styles change and the economy has delivered us a few blows but I’ve always stuck to my guns in what we sell.”
Those who know Carter well refer to him as “The Mayor” as he seems to have his hand on the pulse of most everything that’s happening in Valley.
“If you really want to know what’s going on around town at any given time, just ask Carter,” says his long-time friend, Clarke Rorbach. “If he doesn’t know, then it’s probably not important anyway.”
Carter’s ability to stay informed is aided by the fact that his store has turned into a comfortable gathering place for men and their wives and girlfriends when shopping for birthdays or anniversaries. Mike is usually the benefactor of the latest town gossip or sports saga. The ardent ASU supporter displays Sun Devil football helmets throughout the store just to tease his U of A regulars.
“It’s a great football rivalry that will never go away and it gives us something other than politics to argue about,” he says with a grin.
Carter and his wife, Leigh Ann, have three sons (Matt, Jack and Joe) and they raised their family in the heart of Arcadia. Matt is known to many, if only by his culinary exploits, as he owns The Mission, Zinc and Fat Ox.
“Our neighborhood is such wonderful place and it’s been a big part of our lives. I’m not sure people really know how lucky they are to live in Arcadia.”
When asked for his life philosophy, the former Army sergeant and Bronze Star recipient answers with a question of his own. “How do people go through life without a work ethic and the desire to give back to others?”
And that comes from a man who walks