Sausalito Boutique Gene Hiller Menswear Celebrates 70 Years

Gene Hiller Team

Since landing in Sausalito in 1959, Gene Hiller Menswear has been Marin County’s leading voice in menswear fashion. The boutique on Bridgeway originally opened in San Francisco over 70 years ago, and the store’s expertise reflects so many years of successful operation. Not only are they stylists and high-quality fashion retailers, but they also treat their customers to an experience, building vital customer–client relationships along the way. We had a conversation with co-owners Tom Gangitano and Wayne Kaleck about the history of Gene Hiller Menswear, and what’s next.

What is Gene Hiller Menswear’s specialty? 

Tom Gangitano (TG): Our specialty comes under a broad heading. We specialize in the finest quality of menswear, which encompasses our unique style and details that capture our clients’ interest from around the world. 

Wayne Kaleck (WK): To add to our formula of success, our customer service and knowledge of product and criteria has made us one the leading menswear consultants in the country. 

How did Gene Hiller Menswear come to be? 

Gene Hiller Menswear was created by Gene Hiller, the founder of our store, circa 1953 in San Francisco in a small retail space next to the Curran Theatre. Then in 1959 Gene took his style over the Golden Gate Bridge and created a unique boutique under the Hotel Sausalito on the corner of Bridgeway and El Portal.

Gene Hiller Menswear Interior
Photo courtesy of Gene Hiller Menswear.

How long was Gene Hiller (the man) with the company, and who runs it today?

Gene participated in the store his whole life until the age of 90. After his passing in 2018, Tom Gangitano, Franco Aulicino, Mitchell Gee and Wayne Kaleck proceeded to carry on his legacy to this day. Tom has been with Gene Hiller for 48 years and Wayne 30 years.

What have you noticed that’s changed about business over time? What’s stayed the same?

TG: Fashion is constantly changing. Our unique talent of creating current fashion looks has been one of our trademarks over the years. 

WK: But what has stayed the same has been our exceptional customer service and custom tailoring by Franco Aulicino for the past 48 years. He is truly a maestro. 

What’s the key to staying relevant for so long?

TG: The key to staying relevant for so long first and foremost has been our customer relationships that we have developed over the years. Not only are they clients, they have become our family of friends. 

WK: And because of our relationships we have become a legacy to their families, spanning generations.

Owners of Gene Hiller Menswear stand back-to-back
Photo courtesy of Gene Hiller Menswear.

Is there anything that has surprised you about running a luxury menswear business?

TG: What surprised us about running a luxury menswear business is we have become a concierge in all aspects of life not just menswear. 

WK: From booking exclusive reservations on private tours in unique wineries, five-star hotels and restaurants, to music venues around the Bay Area, our customers trust our taste level of knowledge in life’s experiences. We not only sell fashion, we sell a lifestyle. 

Do you have any memorable interactions with clientele?

TG: Memorable moments are a daily occurrence in our specialty boutique. We are fortunate enough to dress every client for special occasions in their lives. Weddings, birthdays, anniversaries, vacations, graduations — these special moments in their lives become a part of  our lives. And we are honored to be a part of these special events.

As far as memorable isolated events, our fondest memory is when the Italian Trade Commission notified us in 1999 that we would be the first recipient of their Retailer of the Year Award. They held a fabulous cocktail party in our store and the city of Sausalito presented us with a proclamation. 

WK: Other memories are when our clients invite us into their wonderful home to reorganize their closets.

The interior of Gene Hiller Menswear boutique.
Photo courtesy of Gene Hiller Menswear.

Are there any historic moments that have come to GH? A Moon Landing watch-party? Getting the store’s first computer?

WK: We have many historical moments. The most recent one was last year in June when the city of Sausalito created its first Gay Pride weekend, and Gene Hiller Menswear was the finale with a sold-out cocktail soirée supporting the LQBTQ community. 

I see that in addition to being stylists, GH has its own clothing line. Was creating fashion always part of the vision?

TG: Creating fashion wardrobes has evolved into creating our own Gene Hiller brand. With our history and experience we’ve had the pleasure of working with textile mills to create unique fashions for our store and clients. 

Can you tell me more about Gene Hiller Menswear’s involvement in community events like Sausalito Pride?

Gene Hiller Menswear has been a pillar in Sausalito for over 65 years, and has participated in all aspects of our community. Tom was instrumental in developing the downtown merchants business association to network with all other establishments. We also participated in getting the ordinance passed that limits formula and big box businesses in Sausalito. Tom has been associated with the business advisory committee and a past board member of the Chamber of Commerce. Wayne, along with his partner, has been a Sausalito resident for 27 years. He’s been involved in many nonprofit organizations in Marin, including being the president of the Sausalito Art Festival Foundation for four years, which included the role of gala chair alongside his partner Michael Rose for eight years.

We hope to continue Gene’s Legacy for years to come and reach for higher standards.  

Do’s and Don’ts Over the Decades: Talking the Best and Worst of Fashion with Gene Hiller Menswear 

It’s hard to keep up with the latest fashion trends of the past year. It’s even harder to keep up for 70 years. 

Since the dawn of khaki, fashion trends have gone through epic highs and lows: high tops and low rises, small sunglasses and big disasters. But to achieve a timeless look that ascends to the title of “fashionable,” you might need to talk to someone who’s been through the ever-changing cycle of style. Enter Gene Hiller Menswear, Sausalito’s long-standing, award-winning luxury menswear boutique. 

In honor of the shop’s platinum anniversary, the stylists at Gene Hiller are parsing the “hots” from the “nots” across seven decades. So before you get a style transformation from them, or invite them over to reorganize your closet, sample their services with a bit of a throwback. Here are the bests and worsts of men’s fashion through the years, courtesy of those who have seen it all, Gene Hiller’s owners Tove Hiller, Tom Gangitano and Wayne Kaleck. 


James Dean

Hit: The longest lasting fashion hit of the 1950s was James Dean in his leather jacket and t-shirt look, which is still popular today. 

Teddy Boys

Bust: In the 1950s, the teddy boy suit was the fashion disaster of the decade, along with its bird beak, or croissant-style hairdo. You needed a lot of hair product to pull this style off.


Slim Fitting Suit

Winner: Slim fitting suits with Chelsea boots. This style of suit and shoe is very popular today, as it was in the ’60s.

Not so groovy: Psychedelic bell bottom pants! Need I say more?


Three Piece Suit

Off the hook: The Pierre Cardin & Yves Saint Laurent three-piece suits of the 1970s were a big fashion hit in menswear. Still today men wear three-piece suits. 

Leisure Suit

Not so fab: Two of the biggest disasters in fashion of the 1970s were the polyester leisure suit, and platform shoes. Never to be seen again!


80s Italian Style Menswear

The tubular: The biggest fashion hit in menswear in the 1980s was Giorgio Armani style. He started the Italian revolution in menswear around the world. To date, the Italians are still the leading men’s fashion producers in the world.

Loose Fitting Suit

The gnarly: The big padded-shoulder, loose-fitting suit. This made every guy look like he was swallowed up by his suit. Not a flattering look. Also, the mullet-style hairdo was a disaster, never to return in good taste.