For Henry “Hank” Battie, fashion has always been a part of his DNA. Starting at the tender age of nine he began buying his own clothes with money earned from part time jobs after school and on weekends. He even learned to make use of stores’ lay-a-way plans. That way he says, he could always afford the best in clothes that they had to offer. With a great eye for quality, he turned this into his fashion philosophy, “If you have to look for quality, you won’t find it, because quality always has a way of standing out.”
His introduction into retail fashion began in 1974, when he returned to his beloved town of Sarasota, FL after being away for several years attending college and serving in the military. With a young family in tow and in need of employment, Hank took a position as a stock clerk/janitor at a very exclusive St. Armand’s Circle men’s specialty store. While the position was pitched to him as temporary until a sales position opened up, however the latter never materialized. At least not for Hank. The owner of the store told him that he didn’t think he was ready or knowledgeable enough to move into sales and also questioned whether he would be well received (as a Black salesman) by the store’s customers. After all, it was 1974, and integration was not yet fully accepted in the south. In response to the owner’s expressed doubts, Hank explained to him that he had learned a great deal about men’s fashion as a consumer over the years and was also quite confident in his sales ability, although he had no history of sales in any capacity. He also refuted the doubt of customers acceptance by asserting that he didn’t think the owner himself was ready for a Black salesman and subsequently quit the job he was hired to do.
But the story doesn’t end there. After being away from the store for a little more than a year, he was called back to work as an extra for the store’s very successful and always anticipated big annual sale. Although he had been promised that his “extra” duties were to be an additional salesman, once he showed up to work, he was told he would be responsible for writing alteration tickets for the other salesmen. Dejected but realizing he had already taken a week’s vacation from his other job to be there, he held his peace and did what had been asked of him. Within a few hours of the sale however, all of the salesmen were busy with customers and rather than have new customers wait for a salesman to free up, he began greeting and selling to them. At the end of the day, much to his surprise, the owner called him into his office and said that he had been watching him on the sales floor and offered him a sales position that would begin immediately.
Within a year Hank became the store’s top salesman. In addition to sales, he also became the store’s interior display designer and co-hosted a local TV program showcasing men’s and women’s fashions.
In 1990, he left the store and founded Cravats’ Custom Shirts and Fine Accessories and opened a 350 square foot design studio in the former Sarasota Quay complex. Shortly afterwards, another 175 square feet of space was added to the studio to accommodate the addition of custom made clothing. The business flourished in that location for fourteen years until the demise of the property. In 2014, the studio relocated to Burns Square in downtown Sarasota, FL setting up shop at 1530 Dolphin St., Suite Five. To be more specific of the business’s offerings, a slight change in name to Cravats’ Custom Clothiers & Haberdashery was established.
In 2008, with years of membership in the prestigious and oldest men’s fashion organization in the world, the Custom Tailors and Designers Association, Hank was awarded the group’s highest honor of “Master Custom Clothier”.