Landmark business changing hands

MANCHESTER - The owners of Heinel's clothing store will soon be retiring and are selling the store to Melissa Weeks, who plans to keep the store intact. The contract should be finalized sometime next week. Don't worry - the store will still offer tuxedoes for prom.

Harlan Levey and Carol Jodlbauer have owned the store since the early 1980s and said there were a few reasons that they have decided to retire now, including trying to spend more time with their family.

"It just seemed like the right time," said Jodlbauer. "We still have our health and I love to travel so it just seemed like the right time."

Weeks said she decided to buy the store because it fits in with what she wanted to do and was something she expects to enjoy.

"[My family] moved up here three years ago; my husband has had a house up here since he was a kid - over 40 years. I've been working different jobs. I was a computer science major, I worked on Wall Street, I did finance," she said. "I think this kind of fits into my lifestyle, I kind of wanted to relax a little bit, I was kind of high strung. This fits in with kids working in the summer here and it is something I wanted to pursue."

Weeks first heard that Levey and Jodlbauer were hoping to sell the business while talking with them. They told her they were planning on retiring soon, she said.

"I had talked to Carol and she mentioned they were thinking about retiring, so I started thinking that this would be something fun for me. I would have my own thing to do, I like talking with people. I have experience in retail. I love the store and the history here," said Weeks.

Heinel's was first opened in 1879 by John C. Heinel as a tailor shop at Factory Point Square surrounded by other local merchants such as blacksmiths and shoe makers. In 1893, a fire broke out at Factory Point and most of the businesses, including Heinel's, lost their inventory. Soon afterwards, Heinel opened up his store in the current Berkshire Bank building. Heinel's was still only a tailor shop until the early 1920s when "ready-made" suits became available for purchase and Heinel's added retail clothing to the store.

John C. Heinel died in 1926 and the store was taken over by his son Frederick. Soon after, with the expansion of Factory Point Bank, the store was moved to its current location. After Frederick's death in 1975, his son took over the business until he retired in 1982 when he sold the business outside of the family. Enter Levey and Jodlbauer.

"This store has been great us," said Levey. "But we are leaving the store in good hands with Melissa and are looking forward to retirement."

Once the sale of the store in finalized next week, Weeks is planning on closing the store for a short period of time before having a grand re-opening. A preliminary date of Friday, March 22 has been set.

"There is a little bit of an opportunity for some change," said Weeks. "Carol has some ideas on some new things. This store has generally been dominated by men's clothing so we are looking to expand the woman's clothing aspect of the store."

Jodlbauer is planning on helping Weeks settle in once the store is sold, helping with the transition and sticking around for prom season and will be helping until the summer, she said.

"Prom season is a very busy time and we really have to urge kids to order their tuxedoes before Spring Break," said Jodlbauer.


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