Hess Clothing A local retail icon retires, but tradition will continue on South Broad Street
LAURIE KNOWLES CALLANAN Record Express Correspondent
, Staff Writer
For 42 years, Mike Hess has been at his clothing shop at 11 S. Broad St. in downtown Lititz.
Rain or shine, for prom season, wedding season, the holidays, first job interviews, important business meetings, men – and women – relied on Hess for tuxedos, suits, sportswear, coats, belts, accessories, dry cleaning and alterations.
Now, after all those dedicated hours, he’s ready for retirement.
It wasn’t an easy decision for a man who lived, ate and breathed his retail clothing shop. Through the years, he rarely took a vacation. Even when he had two serious health issues, he managed to get into the shop to help his valued customers.
"It’s not easy to let go," admits Hess, 64, who has owned the shop with his wife Brenda since 1971. "But it was time."
Of course, the only way Hess could ever part with his "baby," was to make sure it was in good hands. He wanted someone who could carry on the tradition he started. He wanted someone who cherished a long-standing heritage as a small town clothing store.
"Once I made the decision to retire, I needed to find someone who would be a good fit," he said.
That has turned out to be Shaub’s of Lancaster, a family business operating a shoe and clothing store at 18 N. Queen St. since 1880. Talk about tradition! Started by the Shaub family in the late 1800s, Shaub’s Shoe Shop is a fourth generation business. Henry Shaub was the architect for McCaskey High School, and redesigned the facade of Shaub’s Shoe Shop in the 1920s.
Added to that, members of the Shaub family lived and grew up in Lititz. So, not only did they understand the meaning of a family business built on quality, but they know this town.
On Oct. 1, Hess Clothing became Shaub’s, and Hess handed over the reins to the new owners, Robert "Bob" and Debra Shaub, and his sister Suzanne and her husband Howard Feldman. The Lancaster Shaub’s had closed in 2012, and they recently closed their Manheim Township store at the Landis Valley Shopping Center.
"Our only location for Shaub’s is now here in Lititz," says Suzanne Feldman. "We are very excited."
Hess and the Shaubs spent the last two weeks transitioning things at the store. According to Bob Shaub, everything at Hess’s remains the same. In addition to custom tailored clothing and better branded sportswear, the store continues to offer tuxedo rentals and sales for weddings, proms and formal occasions. The designer names include Ralph Lauren, Perry Ellis, Jean Eves, After Six, Calvin Klein, Chaps, Ecko, Demetrios and Fuse.
The only changes are some new things brought over by Shaub’s. For one, now Hess’s – Shaub’s – has shoes. There are high quality men’s and women’s shoes in both dress and casual styles. There is also a complete women’s shop, with classic, timeless styles of dresses, coats, skirts, blouses, handbags, scarves and jewelry.
Hess used to carry women’s clothing years ago, thanks to Brenda Hess. The women’s shop existed from around 1984 to 2003. That’s when Mike Hess suffered a serious illness and had to undergo chemotherapy. The Hess’s wanted to simplify the business and concentrate just on men’s wear, as the store had done since its start in the 1940s.
"We are thrilled to be adding some new things to the store, such as the women’s shop, shoes and classic lines like Barbour for men and women," says Feldman.
The Shaub’s held their "soft" opening during 2nd Friday, but with heavy rains that evening, it wasn’t ideal. The grand opening is set for next 2nd Friday, Nov. 8.
"We are happy to be a part of the coolest small town in America," adds Feldman, "We all grew up in Lititz, and it feels like home to us."
As Feldman notes, her brother Bob graduated from Warwick High School in 1968, while their sister Sally is a 1971 Warwick graduate. Feldman went to Warwick schools, but finished high school at Lancaster Country Day. The three were the children of Dorothy Haines Shaub and Benjamin Wade Shaub, living on Owl Hill Road.
Their Lititz roots go even further back to grandfather Lewis Haines, who owned the Lititz Springs Pretzel Company. After managing the Sturgis’ Brand factory from 1885 to 1890, Thomas H. Keller established his own pretzel manufacturing bakery, known as the Lititz Springs Pretzel Company. Haines became the owner, and back in the early 1960s the site of the former pretzel company building became the home of the Lititz Rec Center.
Sally Shaub went to Penn State and Feldman went to Stephens College in Columbia, Missouri. She is now living in New York City and is an art advisor. She also has a home near Lititz, and plans to be involved in Shaub’s store in Lititz as much as possible.
Most of the day-to-day operations will be handled by Bob Shaub, and he has been getting acquainted with customers who stop into the shop. Some of them notice the changes, like the Johnston & Murphy, Rockport, Sperry, Sebago and SAS shoes and new men’s clothing lines that include Orvis, Barbour and Joe’s Jeans.
The women’s shop has shoes by Sperry, Vaneli, Uggs, Michael Kors and Jon Josef, plus Eric Javits and Brahmin handbags. Clothing by Not Your Mother’s Jeans, Tracy Negoshian and faux Fabulous Furs are features, along with Echo scarves and classic fashion jewelry. The manager for the women’s shop is Christine Kiehl.
As Feldman notes, Shaub’s has some new plans, such as having Barbour trunk shows. They also want to reach out to the senior community, by offering custom shoe fittings at area retirement homes for SAS comfort shoes.
"Mike doesn’t have to worry, we will take good care of his customers," reassured Bob Shaub.
So now, Hess and his wife Brenda will be thinking of places they might like to travel, like Italy or France. They hope to spend more time with their son and daughter, and their grandson, Logan.
Hess thinks he might need to stop by from time to time, if only to make it a smooth transition for customers. He started working at Hess Clothing back in 1971 when it was owned by his relative, Joseph B. Hess.
"I only worked six months there, and then decided to buy it. I was only 21," he said.
Since that time, he had handled tuxedo rentals for at least 1,500 weddings, probably more. He has seen the sons of customers come in for their wedding and prom tuxes, carrying on the tradition of their fathers.
"I think we’re starting to move into third generations," says Hess, adding that he has rented prom tuxes to teens whose fathers and grandfathers rented tuxedos from Hess’s.
For as long as anyone can remember, the location was a men’s store, opened in 1946 by Joseph Hess. Before that, it housed various retail businesses and offices, as well as homes. As far back as the 1860s, it was the site of the famous Wabank House.
Back in 1863, a Mr. Lichtenthaeler purchased the Wabank House, which was a large four-story frame building on the banks of the Conestoga Creek southwest of Lancaster. Lichtenthaeler took the building down and re-erected it in Lititz on hotel land extending along South Broad Street southward almost to Juniper Alley.
The Wabank House operated as a resort hotel, attracting summer boarders to the rejuvenating Lititz Springs. It was a grand building with a long porch that overlooked downtown Lititz. Ten years later, on July 21, 1873, the wood frame structure was destroyed by fire.
As Hess has been told, the site was an empty lot for some time, before new structures were built there. The Hess Clothing store was one of them.
"There is a lot of history here," says Hess. "It’s always meant a lot to me, and I am grateful that the Shaubs will be carrying on the heritage of Hess Clothing and Shaub’s right here in Lititz."
More HESS CLOTHING, page A7