Racks upon racks of clothing and tall shelves of folded pants are stuffed into the G&L Clothing store located at 1801 Ingersoll Ave. Hanging signs with photos of men and women in work pants and thick coats and names such as Dickies and Carhartt define departments. A rack tucked in among work clothes offers sports jackets, slacks and ties. Boots and other work shoes spill over from a back corner.

Behind the main floor are more aisles of folded clothing, and behind the building is a warehouse with clothes seeping into office spaces.

The seemingly endless clothing inventory represents G&L's push beyond its retail store. New online and commercial endeavors have boosted sales growth and helped one of the last independent clothing stores in downtown Des Moines stay open for 90 years.

"We'll always have a retail presence," said Frank Marcovis, whose family owns the store. However, he added, "we're definitely doing a lot of different things outside the four walls."

Since 1917, when Lou Garsh and Meyer Levine started G&L selling work clothing, shoes and boots to railroad and construction workers, farmers and tradesmen, the company has expanded its line to include almost every type of work wear imaginable, with a specialty in cold-weather gear. The store also prides itself in carrying any size, including big and tall, with 80-inch-waist pants and 10X T-shirts in stock, and enough clothes for customers to buy multiples of an item.

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"We have the depth and the breadth of selection," said Marcovis, whose father, Jim, bought G&L in 1981.

With in-store retail sales staying flat, the Marcovis family has turned to other avenues to get their vast array of products to the market. Online transactions now account for 12 to 15 percent of the store's total sales, with growth in this sector doubling in each of the past two years. Justin Schoen, director of online sales and operations, expects to have close to the same growth again this year.

The success online is a result of becoming involved with Amazon.com when the Internet retailing giant was first expanding its offerings to include apparel. Being one of the first clothing merchants, especially in work wear, to join the site three and a half years ago allowed G&L to become one of the major sellers of Levi's and Carhartt products on the Web site.

Now that competition on Amazon has grown, Schoen said he is working to move the majority of G&L's online sales to its own Web site, which has been online since the late 1990s and was revamped two years ago. Schoen said this would allow the store to develop a closer relationship with its customers worldwide with features such as a message board. Schoen also sees this venture as an opportunity to attract farmers and tradesmen who have been late adopters of the Internet.

Growth in online sales led the company to expand into the warehouse next to the store last October, and the department now has four full-time and four part-time employees.

These employees are also focused on increasing G&L's base of commercial clients. Schoen is working on establishing relationships with companies to sell them uniforms or clothing with the client's logo through a custom Web site. G&L recently purchased a truck that can go to work sites to sell merchandise such as steel-toed shoes directly from the truck.

In-store inventory also continues to increase, which is attracting new customers. Carhartt, for example, launched a women's line last fall, which G&L is expanding with other brands. The shoe department also is growing into one of the largest shoe retailers in Des Moines, Marcovis said.

G&L attributes some of its success to its relationship with its vendors, especially Carhartt. For several years, the store has been the largest independent seller of that company's products and is one of its test markets for new products, such as the women's line.

"It puts us in a pretty unique position compared to some large companies like Scheels [All Sports]," Schoen said. "They're bigger than us, but they don't have the breadth that we have or the relationships."

Marcovis attributes these kinds of relationships to his father. One time Jim Marcovis went to the person who is now the president of Levi's and asked that the company continue to make extra-length jeans, which it had just discontinued. Marcovis said the Levi's employee told his father that he would make the jeans if he bought a whole cutting, or about 200 pairs. "It lasted us five years or six years," he said, "but that's the kind of things that build relationships."

These relationships have become important as more consumers place importance on brands, Marcovis said. "There's a little more discriminate consumer," he said. "People are much more interested in the technical aspects of their clothing. They want it to last longer; they want it to be more protective."

G&L Clothing has been in the same location since 1996, after a series of moves about every 10 years. A fire at the Ewing Building at Ninth and Locust streets caused G&L's last move to its current location near Martin Luther King Parkway. Once on the outskirts of downtown, the store is now surrounded by development, especially mixed-use and residential. In addition to new residents, the construction work has at times caused a lineup at the store at 8 a.m. with people who have forgotten gloves or other equipment.

The Marcovis family does not intend to move or expand the store or open other locations at this time, said Frank Marcovis, adding that it's cheaper to focus on other avenues to sell merchandise, such as the Internet, than to build a new store.

G&L's ultimate goal is to have its name associated with quality brands like Carhartt. "We're always looking for new avenues to reach people," he said.