Obituary: Dressing with Style, Men's Fashion Was Brill's Lifework

Tom Brill, who passed away Nov. 1 at the age of 80, spent his life in the men's fashion industry, partially as owner of Harleys Shop for Men.

Tom Brill always had a taste for dressing with style.

"He always looked like a million dollars," his wife of 60 years Jeanne Brill told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Designer clothing was his life, starting at a men's clothing store at the age of 14.

The former co-owner of the long-standing designer men's clothing store in Shorewood, Harleys: The Store for Men, passed away Nov. 1 at the age of 80.

He joined Harleys in the early 1950s, just a few years after opening in Shorewood. He left around 1968 for a short stint with the men’s designer boutique, the Bill Blass Shop for Men at TA Chapman Company, but returned a few years later and eventually bought the store in 1987 with his friend and long-time co-worker Tim Ryan, who owns the North Oakland Avenue designer men's clothing shop.

"There's a saying 'you need to wear it to sell it,' and Tom was always dressed very dapperly not only because of his own sense of style but also to represent that image at Harley's," Ryan said.

The two became good friends over the decades they worked together. Ryan recalls the many adventures he shared with Brill, which went beyond the workplace.

"He had a passion for things that he got involved in; he had a passion for Harley’s and for Shorewood," Ryan said. "He also had a passion for his family. He always had everyone’s best interest at heart."

Ryan said over the years, Harley's has developed a relationship with its customers that transcends just selling them clothing.

"That is a testament to both the business and Tom," Ryan said.

Barb Caprile, who has served as director of marketing for Shorewood for many years and currently edits the quarterly publication Shorewood Today, characterized Brill as "Mr. Shorewood." Brill was instrumental in starting a Shorewood Association of Commerce, serving as president, helping to attract businesses and market the village.

An avid sailor, Brill enjoyed competing in MORC racing on his boat "Rascal." He was a charter member and board member with the Milwaukee Community Sailing Center (MCSC) from 1988 to 1996, where he expanded on his passion for sailing.

Brill was born in Elmira, NY and called Shorewood his home for more than 60 years.

He is survived by his children Jim (Chris), Michael, Jack (Cindy), Meg, Steve (Susie), Mary Kate Griepentrog, Kathy (Geoff) Heeren, Patrick (Cheryl) and 11 grandchildren, Andy, Shannon, Hunter, Finn, Stephanie, Dana, Keenan, Cooper, Jenna, Charlie, Colin. He is further survived by sibling Carol Brill.

(Obituary information courtesy of Feerick Funeral Home)


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