Vol. 40 No. 5
ByLeslie A. Gordon
Leslie A. Gordon is a secret lawyer who has been working as a freelance legal affairs journalist for more than 10 years.
After majoring in political science and international relations in college, Adam Beltzman then––in what he calls an “autopilot decision”––enrolled at Loyola University Chicago’s School of Law.
“I wasn’t one of those people who wanted to save the world,” Beltzman recalls. “I figured I’d either be a businessman like my grandfather or a lawyer like my uncle.”
After graduation in 2000, Beltzman joined a 20-lawyer firm in suburban Chicago that represented school districts and other municipalities. “We were general counsel for those entities so I got to do real estate, contracts, labor, and litigation,” he says. “It was a good introduction to the practice of law.”
But three and a half years later, Beltzman became disillusioned with work. “It wasn’t what I was passionate about,” he says. “I was 29. I didn’t want to be almost 40 and still doing what I was doing. I was not connecting with it. I wanted to be my own boss and do something entrepreneurial.”
So Beltzman analyzed what hewas passionate about. “I realized I’ve always been interested in fashion and clothing and I always had great style,” he says. “Chicago was lacking in men’s boutiques. I hated department stores and had outgrown Banana Republic. The boutiques were mainly for women and the men’s stores were not on trend.”
After quitting law in 2004, Beltzman spent a year taking entrepreneur and accounting classes and working on a business plan to create his “dream store.” In 2005, he opened Haberdash in Chicago’s Old Town neighborhood. “It’s a modern-day spin on a traditional men’s haberdashery.”
The opening went well, though Beltzman now confesses, “I didn’t really know what I was doing. I didn’t grow up in the clothing business. I didn’t cut my teeth in clothing stores in high school. So I learned a lot on my feet.”
When Haberdash was on the verge of “really making it,” the economy collapsed. “It was an eye opener,” he recalls. Fortunately, Beltzman found an industry veteran to mentor him. “We were able to take his experience and my passion and build a brand.”
Last year, a second Haberdash location opened a few blocks from Michigan Avenue. Future plans include a third location focused on shoes and accessories. The “next frontier,” he says, is a robust e-commerce site.
With his target customers being professionals ages 25 to 45, Beltzman still crosses paths with plenty of attorneys. And while being a lawyer has helped Beltzman with contract review as a business owner, the real value of his legal training is broader. “As opposed to a specific skill, it’s more about a mindset. I loved law school. Law school taught me to think logically and to analyze problems. On a day-to-day basis, I don’t know what I’m tapping into but I know it helps me.”