GROTON — Not many shops in town can boast wares carrying a Royal Warrant, but Rick Fuccillo’s British Fieldwear shop, on Lost Lake Drive, has this distinction. A Royal Warrant is issued to a handful of select companies that have earned the royal stamp of approval. A company can apply for a warrant if it has supplied the British Royal family for at least three years.
In the movie “The Queen,” Elizabeth is shown often wearing her Barbourcoat, while stalking deer and driving about Balmoral, her estate in Scotland. The understatedly posh clothing is at once recognizable and quietly practical in Scotland’s damp, misty climate. In fact, members of the Windsor family are commonly photographed in this timeless, distinct style of outerwear, whether stalking game on the moors or fly fishing on the famous River Dee.
Fuccillo was born and raised in Groton and is a graduate of Lawrence Academy and Boston University. A fifth-generation Grotonian, he first became interested in the British products in the mid-80s, when he began noticing the distinct waxed cotton jackets. Working as a freelance photojournalist, he appreciated the need, he said, for practical, weatherproof outerwear with plenty of pockets.
His curiosity was piqued after reading an ad in the Wall Street Journal for this type of field jacket, so he requested a mail order brochure from a small Southern company. The coats struck Fuccillo as being very exotic yet practical, he explained. In addition, he found a shop in New Hampshire, on the verge of going out of business, which specialized in this waxed cotton jacket type, as well as other British clothing.
Inspired, Fuccillo took a trip to England for some first-hand research. He quickly became impressed, he said, with the practical side as well as the very “smart” looks of these garments on both men and women.
By 1986, Fuccillo had begun importing the elite waxed cotton jackets to America. Though they were virtually unknown here at that time, they quickly caught on. At first, he sold the products by mail order and out of a back room at his grandmother’s variety store.
It soon became apparent that equestrians had a great desire for quality, weatherproof jackets and an affinity for English-style clothing. His line soon expanded to sweaters, caps, scarves, shirts, blazers and regimental ties. Fuccillo began setting up a booth at horse shows as well as shooting and dog events.
Upon the death of his grandmother, Fuccillo expanded her former variety store into a London-style shop, complete with dark wood-paneled walls and cabinets, mounted game heads and a truly “English country house” feel. Along with shop space, Fuccillo’s product line also grew. He added toiletries, specializing in shaving products, as well as soaps, toothpastes and fragrances.
Because of Fuccillo’s low overhead, he said, he is able to offer “great” pricing on items, from authentic British regimental ties to tweed jackets. Fuccillo orders his wares from small manufacturers both here and abroad, to avoid the middle man mark-up.
As Fuccillo points out, a good thing about British style is “there are no fashion trends” as they dress in “the same classic style, year after year.” And while an investment in this type of clothing will yield a long payout, that’s not always great for business, as a typical Barbour field jacket commonly lasts 15 years or longer, said Fuccillo.
Fuccillo said toiletries are “a constant good seller,” Fuccillo said. “People enjoy the luxury of soaps and shave creams made from top ingredients and fragrances at a modest cost,” he explained.
He finds his best customers to be mostly older, married couples who like traditional styles; who don’t have the financial strains of kids in college and mortgages.
Although the dollar has fallen about 40 percent against the British pound in the last two years, Fuccillo feels he cannot pass this on to his customers, he noted, especially when competing with the deep discounts found at malls. He is contemplating expanding his product line of toiletries and getting away from outerwear.
Fuccillo monitors the pulse of what his patrons have come to expect from his shop, he said, and like the style of British Fieldwear, that will not change.