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Hirsch’s to Close in December

  • Ed Hirsch, third-generation owner of Hirsch's Clothing in Lebanon, N.H., checks an embroidery order on Jan. 7, 2016. Hirsch has decided to close the family clothing store after nearly 70 years in business. (Valley News - Sarah Priestap) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Work gloves for sale at Hirsch's Clothing in Lebanon, N.H., on Jan. 7, 2016. Ownder Ed Hirsch has decided to close the family clothing store after nearly 70 years in business. (Valley News - Sarah Priestap) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Valley News Business Writer
Published: 10/22/2016 11:55:16 PM
Modified: 10/24/2016 11:57:36 AM

Lebanon — Hirsch’s, the Lebanon apparel store that has clothed, outfitted and shod generations of Upper Valley residents with everyday casual and work clothes, will be closing its doors in December.

The Hanover Street business, a throwback to era of the utilitarian clothing store that once could be found in nearly every town across New England, like so many other local shops has succumbed to online retailing and chain outlets, said owner Ed Hirsch.

Founded by Hirsch’s parents 69 years ago, Hirsch’s evolved over nearly seven decades from an Army-Navy store, to a men’s haberdashery — later expanding into women’s clothing — then switching to an outdoor and rugged workwear store and, most recently, a supplier of police and fire department uniforms. Hirsch said he plans to keep the municipal side of the business going for the present, but it will require less room to operate than maintaining a sales floor.

“I’d like to keep it in the same location, it depends,” Hirsch said. “We’ve had some inquiries already about renting the space, and I don’t need all that room.”

Renting the showroom space to a tenant represents a change in plans for Hirsch, who last year put the building, with its six apartment units on the second floor, up for sale. Although Hirsch said he came close to a deal with a buyer, in the end the sale didn’t happen and there hasn’t been much interest otherwise.

Hirsch now foresees operating the uniform business out of a portion of the space while leasing out the remainder, although it would ultimately depend upon the needs of the tenant.

“We’d like to do it from this location if we can,” he said.

The gradually declining retail business is what led Hirsch, who was already selling work clothes out of the Lebanon store, several years ago to tack the business into becoming a supplier of municipal department uniforms.

Unlike general apparel retailing, where customers can buy the same product online as in stores, customizing uniforms for small-town police and fire departments is still largely a function of maintaining direct relationships with the emergency responders and town administrators who do the purchasing.

The niche business turned Hirsch into one of the leading suppliers of municipal utility apparel in the Twin States — he estimates he sells uniforms to “close to” 200 towns across New Hampshire and Vermont — with customers in the Upper Valley including fire and police departments in Woodstock, Bradford, Springfield and Newbury, Vt., and Charlestown, N.H., to name a few, as well as Dartmouth College’s facilities department.

But after “re-inventing” the retail side of the business several times to adjust to changes in the market and consumer behavior, Hirsch said, it’s time to focus on the wholesale accounts.

“I just feel it’s time to shrink the business,” he said.

A Lebanon native who went to Lebanon High School and graduated from Dartmouth College and business school at Cornell University before pursuing a banking career in New York, Hirsch returned home to take over the family’s business in 1982, when his father became ill.

But Hirsch, whose daughter is a humanitarian aid worker in Israel and whose son is in law school, said his children are pursuing their own careers and it would be unlikely for them to take over the business.

“This is an old-fashioned business. It’s not what young people want to do,” he said, acknowledging a generational shift in attitude. “It’s not where they’re at.”

John Lippman can be reached at 603-727-3219 or jlippman@vnews.com.

Correction

Hirsch's Clothing, Footwear and Uniforms is on Hanover Street in Lebanon. An earlier version of this story incorrectly named a different street.




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