Second generation Italian American Charles Lallo was already a skilled haberdasher in 1972, when he bought the men’s clothing store at 404 Washington Street that would bear his name for more than half a century. His former boss, Herman Gartner, had established a reputation at Gartner’s Men’s Shop for providing an extensive range of products and dedicated service. Lallo’s House of Charles Men’s Wear was to do the same, garnering significant customer loyalty and repeat visits by Hoboken notables including Grace “Roughhouse” Costello, a “lady wrestler” who frequented the shop to buy presents for the men in her life.
But most visitors to 404 Washington Street were men, possessed with a clear sense of style. The biggest boon to Gartner’s, and then Lallo’s House of Charles, was the changing population of Hoboken, as families from Puerto Rico (and later, Cuba) began to migrate to the city, beginning in the late 1940s and 1950s. As Charles Lallo, Jr., who started working at the shop in his teen age years before moving on to other ventures, later explained, “A lot of Hispanics moved to Hoboken. Twenty, twenty-five, thirty years of a strong Hispanic influence on this town. They brought a lot of great music, a passion for life. They were great spenders. They always liked to dress up and have parties.” He credited the store’s broad offerings—“from underwear to upperwear”—and Lallo’s many Puerto Rican salesmen, for helping to guarantee that customers felt comfortable and could get exactly what they were looking for.
By the turn of the twenty-first century, Hoboken had changed again. Deindustrialization and gentrification greatly reduced the city’s Puerto Rican community. Charles Lallo, Sr. died in 2014, and Lallo’s House of Charles closed.