Ken Helfman. Photo by Benjamin Hager.

Lake Highlands neighbor Ken Helfman passed away peacefully last week, surrounded by members of his loving family. Ken’s Man Shop, opened by Helfman 60 years ago, continues to dress some of Dallas’ most successful businessmen, dignitaries and athletes.

Sign up for our newsletter!

* indicates required

Helfman opened Ken’s in 1964 at Garland’s Ridgewood Shopping Center, where he specialized in European menswear. When he opened a store on Skillman Street in the 1970s near the Dallas Cowboys training facility, players and staff members became frequent customers, including the always dapper head coach. Tom Landry, known for wearing a suit, tie and trademark fedora on the sidelines, relied on Ken during his entire coaching career.

In 1992, Helfman was joined by Kory, his youngest son, and they moved the store to its current location at Preston and Royal.

“Since he opened this store 60 years ago, he has touched so many lives,” wrote Kory on social media. “Ken loved coming to work and seeing his wonderful customers, who he considered friends.”

Before Christina Hughes Babb wrote for Lake Highlands Advocate (she’s now working on another project), she did a stint selling clothes at Ken’s. When she got a chance to tell Helfman’s story, she was effusive in praising him.

“The day I watched Ken Helfman, a longtime Lake Highlands resident, sell a full-length cashmere trench coat to the mayor of Dallas in August was the day I knew I was in the presence of a master.”

In a question-and-answer session, Helfman shared how he became a haberdasher.

“My dad and brother were doctors, but during my time in college I really didn’t discover what I wanted to do. As a teen, I worked for a friend of my mom who taught me the men’s clothing business, and I really loved it. In the 1960s I worked in shoe sales for a store in Casa Linda called Persian Peyton’s … one day the men’s department salesman asked me to take over during his lunch break. By the time he got back, I’d sold thousands worth of clothes. I wound up becoming a manager, and after that, I knew what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. It really came down to loving people. The business just suited — pardon the play on words — my personality.”

Those who shopped at Ken’s recall the giant chess table near the front door. Helfman explained that, too.

“That belonged to my father. He was the chess champion of New York State at age 16 … he played blindfolded chess! He was so good at it, he probably could have taken it up as a profession rather than becoming a doctor. Every piece in the store has a story behind it.”

A memorial service was held Jan. 18. Kory has invited those who wish to honor his father to donate to the Bill Hunt Scholarship in his memory. Hunt was a high school student and employee when the store first opened in 1964. He died at age 27. Click on this link, and below the bit about the golf tournament, there’s blank for “Donation in memory of,” and you may write “The Bill Hunt Scholarship in memory of Ken Helfman.”

May his memory be a blessing.

1982 advertisement featuring Dallas Cowboy (and Lake Highlands resident) Charlie Waters. UNT Libraries Special Collections.