Celebrating the Soul of American Retailing
It was a celebratory evening indeed and a first for the menswear industry! MR magazine honored a few dozen merchants from across the US as century stores, having been in business for 100 years or more. The event took place earlier this month at the Chicago Mart and was sponsored by the Chicago Collective, Peerless Clothing International, and Nobis outerwear.
Having opened their doors in 1905, FL Crooks was one on the century stores, and owner Jim Crooks was in attendance to accept the award from Karen Alberg Grossman, MR Editor in chief. Grossman stated, "For everyone in attendance, it was an emotional evening, a celebration of great stores who have given back so much to their communities...MR magazine was delighted to celebrate the survivors, the ones who truly understand that this business is more about creating genuine relationships than it is about selling clothes."
In her opening remarks (and in her editor's letter from the February 2020 MR Magazine), Grossman referred to comments made by Jim Crooks about the beginnings of his store: "My grandfather ran the store throughout the Depression doing whatever he could to earn/save money. He cut hair, he pulled teeth (50 cents per tooth), he kept all the lights off until someone walked through the door. When my dad returned from the war, he was shocked to find the store devoid of inventory. He went to Philadelphia to meet with a key clothing brand; when they wouldn't sell him, he sat on the stoop for two days until they took his order... The store was empty; he had to fill it."
As the awards were presented, each merchant was given one minute at the microphone. The acceptance speeches were passionate, contributing their store's longevity to strong teams, talented tailors, fine products, and valued loyal customers. Many spoke of the sacrifices of parents, grandparents and great grandparents who were passionate about their vision. One merchant commented, "I'd rather make a friend than a sale." Another honoree spoke of a story his mother told him about a phonebook. "Tearing out a single page is easy, but it is truly difficult to rip the pages of a phonebook when they are all together."
The retailers enjoyed meeting each other and vowed to support each other. The camaraderie was uplifting and encouraging. As one merchant eloquently stated, "Let's suit up for the task at hand". David Kositchek from Kositcheks in Lansing, Michigan, said "Prosperity has made it possible for us to grow but adversity has been our greatest teacher."
Along with FL Crooks & Co., two other Pennsylvania men's clothing stores were honored that evening: Isaac Baker of Erie and Miller's of Johnstown.
The evening's sponsor, MR magazine, is the industry's foremost menswear trade publication and has been published for the past thirty years. Another sponsor, Peerless Clothing International, recently celebrated their own 100 years in business, having begun in 1919.