ITHACA, N.Y. –– In 1994, Peter Parkes bought Irv Lewis, a high-end men’s clothing store, on the Ithaca Commons. Upon buying Irv Lewis, Parkes renamed the store Benjamin Peters, after his newborn son, Benjamin, and himself. Still carrying men’s formal wear, athletic clothes and shoes, Parkes added on-site tailoring to the mix as well.

Photo courtesy of the Ithaca Journal archives

Now, after almost 30 years, Parkes is passing the baton on to another young man ready to continue his legacy. Sam Parlett, an employee for eight years,made the move to buy the store this past Spring, following in Parke’s footsteps of entrepreneurship.

Parlett, a native Ithacan, made a return to his hometown in the summer of 2013 after being away at art school. Aside from knowing how to tie a tie, Parlett said he started out uninterested in retail and men’s fashion. However, he quickly was able to find the artistry in what Benjamin Peters does, especially the tailoring.

“[Tailoring is] an endangered art form that is really time consuming and there’s not a lot of people answering into that,” Parlett said, “I just really love it though and I love what I do.”

Mr. Parkes said that Parlett became a good merchant, a sales leader and started attending fashion shows where he became the store’s clothing buyer and merchandiser. 

“Even during the pandemic, honing his tailoring skills,” Parkes said of his apprentice. “I knew I could trust Sam to run the business.”

Of course, Parlett will not be keeping everything the same at Benjamin Peters –– in the fall, he plans to add women’s clothing to the shop’s repertoire in addition to their own line of khakis and tailoring, which now includes clothing bought outside of their store.

The shop is also offering a new customizable suits program which Parlettt is excited for. Customers will be able to choose the fabric, color, patterns and have it tailored to them, making the process more personal than before. 

“I felt he was the right person to continue the legacy Stu Lewis afforded me,” Parkes said. “I feel wonderful to be “paying it forward” to the younger entrepreneurial spirit.”

Parlett echoed this sentiment saying, “they gave me a shot. I was young and kind of aimless.” He added, “I was really able to take control of who I am as a person. That’s the power of clothing.”

Parlett said under his stewardship customers can expect the same high quality and great service shop that has earned them local acknowledgement and trust. He also plans to keep the store name the same.

“I want to work here as long as I can,” Parlett said.  “I couldn’t imagine working anywhere else. I’m so passionate about this.”

Mikayla Rovenolt

Mikayla Rovenolt interns with the Ithaca Voice and is also a contributing writer for Queers for a Cause, an online based Lgbtq news and advocacy blog. Tips or stories? Contact mikaylarovenolt@gmail.com.