Heinel's Clothiers to close in mid-March

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MANCHESTER — Heinel's Clothiers is closing, but owner Melissa Weeks said she is hoping to sell the business and is in talks with potential buyers.

Weeks said she plans to close Heinel's in mid-March, but she might have to stay open longer, depending on inventory or a buyer. The landlord, Jon Valles from Connecticut, is working with her and is willing to rent to her on a month-to-month basis if need be.

Weeks decided to close the store because she wants to have more flexibility to visit her family, saying three of her four children live out west and her mother lives in New Jersey.

Family has been the vibe at Heinel's since John. C. Heinel opened for business in 1879. His son, Fredrick H. Heinel, started working at the store in 1900 eventually his son, Fredrick P. Heinel Jr., took over the business.

For 103 years, the store that started out as a tailor shop in the Up For Breakfast location was owned and operated by the Heinel family.

And it's been a fixture downtown from the beginning.

Heinel's Clothiers has never moved farther than a city block in the last 141 years, nor have they ever closed their doors, which makes them one of the longest continuously running clothing stores in Manchester.

Weeks, who moved to the area from New Jersey with her husband in 2010, took over the business in 2013 from Carol Jodlbauer and Harlan Levy. This made Weeks the fourth owner since Fredrick Heinel Jr. retired from the business in 1982.

While a lot has changed over the years, taking care of its

customers has always been a

Heinel's specialty.

"Heinel's is about personalized customer service," Weeks said.

It is not unusual for Weeks to receive a call from a customer telling her they need something, like a blue flannel.

Weeks pulls out all the blue flannels in the store, lays them out on the counter like ducks in a row and takes a photo. Then she texts the photo to the customer who tells her which one they would like and she ships it to them.

When Manchester resident Mike Powers was a boy in the 1950s, he

remembers similar customer

service, minus the cellphone.

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"Everything in Heinel's was shown to you," Powers said. He recalls the suits and jackets being stored in a large wooden wardrobe-like contraption that could spin around. "You would tell Mr. Heinel Sr. what you wanted and he would pull it out for you to look at."

"He'd convince you this is what you'd wear," Powers said. "I got my eighth-grade graduation suit there. It was gray Aberdeen."

Powers remembers Mr. Heinel, both senior and junior, and store clerk Charlie Gaudette with a great deal of affection.

"They were terrific gentlemen," he said.

Back then, Heinel's was located on the left side of the Factory Point Bank Building next to Young's Shoe Store.

Michael Heinel, a fourth generation Heinel who worked in the store in the 1970s, said the store sold men's wear from Freeman-Hickey suits to quality work clothes from Johnson Woolen Mills.

"It was a local, family shop," Michael said. "It had something for everyone."

By the 1970s, Heinel's had moved from the Factory Point Bank Building to an addition Fredrick Heinel, Sr. had built on to the side of his house on Main Street, which is now present-day Heinel's.

During construction the town was worried that the north end of the addition was too close to the street and it would have to be removed. "I own the road," Heinel said.

He had his lawyer present the deed showing that when the road was widened, the property had never legally been deeded to the town. The addition remained.

As Weeks prepares for the closing of Heinel's in mid-March, she reflects upon her successes and the future of retail in Manchester.

"Retail in Manchester does well when people are here," Weeks said.

With this in mind, she believes it's important for the area to continue to host events like the summer horse festival in Dorset and the Summer street festival that bring people to the area.

Weeks also feels it's important for retailers to distinguish themselves. At Heinel's, she made a conscious effort to bring in high quality, boutique brand name clothing.

"People are always telling me I have unusual items," Weeks said. "I have definitely acquired a following with that approach and get phone orders or orders through social media advertising that way."

Michael Heinel praised the past owners of Heinel's Clothier for their stalwart stewardship of the store his great grandfather started in 1879. He said he was sorry to see it close but understands nothing can last forever.

While this may be the end of a 141-year journey through the changing world of retail, the history created during that time, along with the many contribution the Heinel family made to Manchester, will remain.


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