The Times photo by Betsy Reason
Ryan Cassidy, a Noblesville High School senior, checks out his coral vest that he rented to go with his date’s dress, when he picked up his tuxedo on Thursday from Dan Yancey, owner of Yancey’s Apparel & Tuxedos on South 10th Street. NHS Prom is tonight at the Embassy Suites in Noblesville.
The Times photo by Betsy Reason Ryan Cassidy, a Noblesville High School senior, checks out his coral vest that he rented to go with his date’s dress, when he picked up his tuxedo on Thursday from Dan Yancey, owner of Yancey’s Apparel & Tuxedos on South 10th Street. NHS Prom is tonight at the Embassy Suites in Noblesville.

It’s Dan Yancey busiest time of the year: high school prom season. 

You know, when juniors and seniors and their dates dress to the nines in semi-formal wear for a night of dancing and celebrating the end of the school year. 

For many teens, it’s their first adult social event. And the first time to wear a fancy party dress or tuxedo.

Noblesville High School’s prom, themed, “A Night Under the Stars,” is tonight and moves this year to the Embassy Suites by Hilton Noblesville Indianapolis Conference Center. Being a mom, I imagine other moms are thrilled that the annual dance, which had taken place for 30 years at the Indiana Roof Ballroom, has moved closer to home.

On Monday morning, I popped in on Dan Yancey, who was busy taking care of tuxedo returns from Hamilton Heights High School’s prom last weekend.

He invited me to step into his approximately 15-by-25-foot showroom and office tucked away inside a former meat-packing company building that currently houses Jim Wafford’s Logan Street Signs and Banners and Noblesville Trophies, on South 10th Street in Noblesville.

There, at Yancey’s Apparel & Tuxedos, is a display of a handful of tuxedos on mannequins and books of sample materials and colors, so that young men can match their vests and ties to their dates’ dresses. Particularly, bow ties are popular this year, said Yancey and his NHS customers who on Thursday afternoon arrived to pick up their rentals.

So what’s popular for prom? “This year, it’s all trim fits. It means slimmer tux, slimmer legs, slimmer everything,” Yancey said. “The most popular is a black tux with a colored vest and tie.” Red’s very popular, and royal blue and fuschia, too.

For Ryan Cassidy, a Noblesville High School senior, coral was his choice of color for his vest, to match his date’s dress. He took a look at it on Thursday, when he picked up his black tuxedo. He also picked up a black tux and black vest for his twin brother, Tyler Cassidy, whose date was to be in red. Fellow classmate Jack Knight rented a gray tuxedo matched with a wine-colored vest to match his date’s dress.

Each year, Yancey starts getting busy mid-March, with young men visiting his store to get measured and fitted for prom formal wear.

The first prom of the season for Yancey was Hamilton Southeastern High School on April 13 at the Biltwell Event Center in downtown Indianapolis.Hamilton Heights’ prom was April 27 at the Embassy Suites in Noblesville, and Fishers High School prom will be May 11 at The Fountains in Carmel. He also rented some tuxedos for Sheridan High School’s prom, which was April 26.

Yancey coordinates with a couple of students from each school to hand out his formalwear flyers.

Tuxedos rent $110 to $165, including vest, tie and shiny patent-leather dress shoes.

Yancey, a 1964 NHS grad, sported a black tuxedo with black cummerbund at his own prom which, back then, took place at the high school, which opened in 1955 and is now Ivy Tech. What color vest? “They didn’t even have vests then.” But he rented his tuxedo for $29.95 from Zeckel’s Clothing Store, operated by the late Ben Zeckel, grandfather of Jeff Zeckel of Noblesville, and drove a burgundy 1955 Chevy to prom.

Folks who’ve lived in Noblesville much of their lives know Yancey’s name.

Yancey, 72, who was born at Riverview Hospital and who has lived here all of his life, attended First Ward and Second War grade schools, the old Federal Hill School, the junior high at the old Boys & Girls Club, then graduated from the high school that’s now Ivy Tech.

Yancey attended Ball State University and then took a job at Falvey’s men and boys store at 68 N. Ninth St. He started working at Falvey’s at age 20, in 1966. He was assistant manager, then after five years became manager of the store, where he worked for the next 20 years. “I liked the people,” he said.

The owner of Falvey’s, which had 21 stores, decided to sell four of the stores, including the Noblesville location. Yancey and a friend and business partner bought the store. Then shortly after, Yancey bought the building through Joe Roberts, who handled the owner’s estate.

“I liked being my own boss,” said Yancey, who changed the store’s name to Yancey’s Apparel for Men & Women, in the 1980s, to reflect his ownership, which was in business during the days when Armstrong’s Shoes, JCPenney department store, Corner Drug Store, Noblesville Furniture Co. and Watsons’ Carpet were all in business on the Square. Smith’s Jewelers and Syd’s Fine Food & Spirits are among the longtime businesses still there. 

Back in the day, customers would come in to shop for sportswear and suits. He even added ladies apparel.

Yancey’s was located where Rosie’s Cafe is now at 68 N. Ninth St., just three doors north of where The Times office is today at 54 N. Ninth St.
Sales were good and increased every year, until one year, sales dropped and didn’t recover. 

Yancey closed the store in about 2008. “Just like every other little store,” he said.

“After I got rid of the stress, I had a stroke,” Yancey said, recalling the temporary loss of use on his right side. “While I was in the hospital, Jim Wafford came to him and said, ‘I’ve got a room down there.’ I had no place to go. He said, ‘Why don’t you come down here and try it?’ And I thought, ‘Well, that’s just perfect.’”

Yancey said, “It was very kind of Jim to do that. He had Signs and Banners downtown, right around the corner from me, and he kind of put himself in my shoes and knew I was lost.”

After seven months of recuperating and rehabilitation, Yancey reopened for business at 1740 S. 10th St., with suits, dress shirts and ties, plus his formalwear tuxedo rental business. 

“It works out perfect,” said Yancey, who keeps his own schedule, allowing him to play golf all summer at Fox Prairie Golf Course.

“I don’t have the visibility like I had at the store in (downtown) Noblesville, but I get enough. Because it’s just one guy, me.”

Yancey, who formerly employed several sales people on the floor at Yancey’s downtown, works solo these days.

After prom season, it’s wedding season, with June and July the most popular months for tying the knot. 

The tuxedo rental business is his side business.

“My main business is my suit business,” Yancey said. I travel the whole state and sell to funeral homes.”

Suits for the dead?

“That’s what everybody thinks… the deceased,” Yancey said.

“I sell to people who work in funeral homes because they wear suits….” It’s a niche he’s found… “I have a great price. I built a business. They know me….I go around twice a year. It works out perfect. It’s the greatest, semi-retired job you could have.”

Yancey and his mobile suit business visit 200 funeral homes each year. “I go on the road, starting next week,” he said.

At many of his funeral home stops, there are other professionals, such as school superintendents, lawyers and bankers, who also buy suits. And some funeral homes buy suits to keep on hand for the deceased.

“They’re very good to me. It seems like if they can help me out, they do. They trust me. They’re very loyal customers,” Yancey said.

He carries about 500 suits on his sales calls, new ones in the spring and fall. The two most popular suit colors are black and gray.

He does fittings for customers who need, and special orders sizes and colors that he might now have on hand. But 500 suits is a lot of choices on hand. “Most will look and see what I have,” he said.

What’s he like best about the business? “The people,” said Yancey. “Funeral home people are great people. Few people don’t see them with a sense of humor, like I get to see them … I have a great time doing it.”

He and his wife, Jane, of 52 years — a retired third-grade teacher from Elwood who worked at North and Forest Hill elementaries — have one son, Michael, and two granddaughters, ages 18 and 16.

After all of these years in the men’s clothing business, Yancey said it still suits him. 

He said, “It’s very good and keeps me busy.”

-Contact Betsy Reason at betsy@thetimes24-7.com