When a customer enters Bonobos, the new high-end men's clothing shop at 1519 Walnut St., he's greeted and then offered a free beverage - soda, Perrier, or beer - along with a personal "guide."

That guide becomes the shopper's BFF for as long as it takes him to find the clothes he likes.

Shopper Markus Beam, 39, relished the attention during a recent visit. Beam returned to Center City five months ago from New York, where he was a regular at the flagship Bonobos in Manhattan.

The Philadelphia Bonobos Guideshop had all his sizes and preferences stored in a database, making it easy for his guide, Bajae "Jae" Richardson. She selected pieces based on his buying history and took them to his fitting room, which he alone used.

Bonobos - named for a type of ape considered advanced - is among a crop of stores that began online and now are at the forefront of retail. The eyewear firm Warby Parker, which later this year moves in two doors down from Bonobos, is another firm where e-commerce and brick and mortar are converging.

"To me, it's the perfect marriage between a normal department store, where you have to go in to make a purchase, and online shopping, where you can't try anything on," Beam said of Bonobos. "What I love is I can do all online shopping, and go months and months without having to go to their store.

"But if I do want to try on a new style or fit, I can walk 15 minutes to their store and try it on before I actually purchase it. I like having both options and the personal touch of having the guide stay with me the entire time," he said.

While shopping for about an hour, Beam sipped sparkling water while his mother looked on. Beam was on the hunt for the perfect-fitting jeans.

With each pair he tried on, he asked Richardson, an 18-year-old from Willow Grove trained in style and fit, how he looked. If she approved, she nodded.

Beam, a life coach and agent for opera singers, ended up buying two pairs - one in black and one in blue - and a purple sweater. The total was $324, though Beam received a 25 percent discount.

"She was giving me the input I was asking for, and it felt like I was being catered to, but not in a pushy or hard-sell manner," Beam said of Richardson. "It was like having a personal shopper."

Beam carried no bags with him when he left.

Instead, everything was shipped to his home near Graduate Hospital. All orders are shipped, free of charge, directly to the customer within one to three days, the company says.

Beam's clothes arrived two business days later.

"Our customers find it really convenient, especially if they're still shopping and going out to dinner, or meeting friends for drinks," store manager Stephanie Cooper said.

The Walnut Street Bonobos opened Aug. 26 and sits between a Barbour clothing store and Govberg Jewelers. Ripped, a gym, occupies space on the level above it. The store spans 2,200 square feet, double the size of the Bonobos that opened Sept. 1 at the King of Prussia Mall.

While calling ahead to set up an appointment with a guide is recommended — especially on busier weekends — it's not required, said Cooper, who calls the store "a fit shop for the Bonobos website."

Bonobos was founded in 2007 at Stanford Business School by student Andy Dunn, who believed that online-only was the best channel to provide the best customer-service experience.

In 2011, in response to customer demand, Dunn opened the first Guideshop at the company's headquarters in the Flatiron District in New York City. Its first stand-alone location was in Boston in 2012.

There are now 25 Guideshops across the country. On Sept. 29, Bonobos opened its latest store on Madison Avenue - its fifth Manhattan Guideshop.

Bonobos chief revenue officer Erin Ersenkal said the company plans to have 30 stores by the end of the year. The privately held retailer does not disclose financial results.

"Bonobos, as well as other exciting new retailers to the market, such as Under Armour and Warby Parker, are providing experiences that you simply can't get by purchasing something online," said Brittany Goldberg, an MSC Retail High Street Specialist, who brokered the deal with the company's national representative to bring Bonobos downtown. "This interactive component is what creates a very loyal customer base and differentiates them from traditional retailers."

Top sellers include the washed chinos that retail for $88 and daily grind wrinkle-free dress shirts at $98, or three for $225. Neckties start at $68. The most expensive item is a Capstone Italian suit for $900.

Cooper said the bulk of their clients are men ages 25 to 45.

She showed off an iPad screen with Bonobos' inventory, and pointed out that the store has no central cash register.

"We do everything on an iPad," she said.

It became clear how Bonobos and others like it that began life online are now snatching up pricey real estate in urban centers across the country.

They simply don't need as much of it. Given their virtual showrooms, there's no need for much shelf or warehouse space.

Bonobos sales associates that afternoon roamed the store freely, each armed with a laptop as they served customers.

"This is the future of retail," Cooper said.

215-854-4184@SuzParmley