After 115 Years in Business, Lee & Hanson to Sell Entire Inventory, Close Its Doors

October 18, 2016

roger-and-lavonne-furman-lee-hanson-closing-10-18-16-upside-downBRITTON, S.D. — After 115 years in business, including 40 years under the ownership of Roger and Lavonne Furman, Lee & Hanson men’s clothing store will sell its entire inventory and close its doors.

“We discussed it with a consultant four years ago and he said, ‘I don’t think you’re ready yet.’ He was right. We were concerned then and we’re still concerned about the effect on the community,” Furman said. “The store was a staple in a lot of lives for a lot of generations. Lavonne and I know it’s the right time, but we do it with heavy hearts.”

The store’s inventory sale opens to the public on Thursday. Lee & Hanson, located 720 Main St., will be open 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Thursday and Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Saturday and noon to 4:00 p.m. Sunday.

The store’s tenure speaks to its remarkable success to weather economic ups and downs, changing consumer demands, population shifts and other forces. Only about half of all new businesses survive five years or more and about one-third survive beyond the 10-year mark. According to a recent U.S. Census Bureau statistic, only 0.008 percent of U.S. businesses reach 100 years old. Twice as many Americans — 0.017 percent — live to 100 and beyond.

Lee & Hanson got its start in 1901 when a Wisconsin businessman moved to Britton and opened the store. Its name was established about a year after its founding when a partner bought into the store. Over the years, various family members were involved with the store, including a third-generation member who was a retired New York schoolteacher.

“I came into the picture in 1970 as an employee, bought the store in 1976 and the rest, as they say, is history,” explained Furman, who took an unusual route into men’s retail.

Furman studied at a trade school in Wahpeton, N.D., as a machinist and had been an seasonal employee at the grain elevator in his hometown of Kidder, S.D., when he went looking for fulltime work and landed a job at Lee & Hanson.

“My wife and I were actually going to join the Peace Corps. She had an accounting degree and growing up in rural America we thought we’d probably do something like that,” he said. “We told the fellow I was working for about it and a short time later, he made me an offer to buy the store. we thought long and hard, and decided that would be a better move for us at the time.”

A key to Lee & Hanson’s longevity has been its regional popularity, beginning with its county seat status.

“We’ve had a pretty good draw being 60 miles from Aberdeen, 195 miles from Sioux Falls and 120 miles from Fargo,” Furman said. “I remember growing up what a treat it was to get to come to town and there were a lot of little towns around the area where the feeling was the same.”

Lee & Hanson was able to ride out the storms of severe economic downturns over the years, even when interest rates for operating capital hit 20 percent. “It wasn’t only tough on Main Street; it was tough for rural, too. We rode along with it — and together we survived.”

New challenges have arisen for independent men’s clothing stories these days, including big-box stores, the rise of casual Friday and fierce competition from internet retailers. Yet, Furman has enjoyed a special bond with Lee & Hanson’s customers.

“They’re priceless. They’ve been a part of my life and my livelihood. They’ve been my friends and confidantes. I’ve spent 46 of my 69 years here so this has been my second home,” he said. “This will come as a big surprise to a lot of people because a lot of people really, really rely on us. Some will say, “You have to think about this again before you do it,’ I’m sure, but others will say, ‘Good for you!”

He added, “I don’t know that there’s ever a good time, but it’s the right time.  Most days, it wasn’t a job at all. It was a way of life that I’ve loved. I enjoyed the ups and downs and the challenges, but most of all, I loved the people. Lavonne, our children Ryan and Lori, and I thank everyone for being a part of that. I have four grandkids who are very special to me and they’re are just starting activities. And, I’m still going to be involved in the community.”

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Jerry’s Mens Wear & Lin’s Fashions to Sell Entire Inventory, Close Their Doors

October 10, 2016

MARSHALL, Mo. – Jerry’s Mens Wear and Lin’s Fashions, local retail mainstays for nearly two decades, will sell their entire inventories and close as owner Jerry Hedrick brings his 50-year retail clothing career to an end.

Hedrick and his wife, Linda, have owned the two businesses located at 24 N. Jefferson Ave., since 1999. The stores’ inventory sale, which is open to the public, will be held from 9:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Friday, 9:00 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and noon to 4:00 p.m. Sunday this week. The store will resume its regular hours — 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Monday through Saturday — next week.

“We decided that it’s time. We have grandkids that are all active in sports and lots of other things, and we’re looking forward to seeing more of them and sharing in those activities,” Jerry Hedrick said today.

Hedrick was in high school when he landed his first job in men’s retail. A neighbor told him that he should apply for an opening at Rose & Buckner, a local men’s clothing store. “I started out stocking shelves, sweeping the front of the store. I was basically a go-fer,” Hedrick recalled.

At one time, there were several Buckner-related stores but Rose & Buckner was in business for about 120 years.

“Two generations of Buckners and three generations of Roses ran it,” Hedrick said. “One of the managing partners was a third-generation member of the Rose family who had been in the Army, graduated from West Point, served in Germany, Korea and Vietnam then taught at West Point before coming back to Marshall after he retired as a colonel.”

In the late 1960s, Hedrick opted for a different job but returned to the Rose & Buckner fold in 1973. In 1993, owners chose to close the store and the Hedricks made the decision to venture out on their own. They took over the previous store site and offered a wide variety of men’s and women’s fashions.

From the start, Hedrick put a premium on delivering superior customer service.

“That’s what we’re about — and what we’ve always been about. We are a full-service business. We have a tailor in house,” he said. “We know our customers by name, we care about them and you do have quite a bond with them. That’s the thing I’ll miss.”

Hedrick has seen a number of industry changes over the years, from economic ups and downs and numerous fashion trends to the arrival of the dressed-down casual Friday workplace.

“I’ve always said, ‘Women shop, men buy.’ Men wait until they need something before they buy it,” said Hedrick. He added, with a laugh, “I’ve always said, ‘If it wasn’t for wives and girlfriends, there would be a lot of naked guys.'”

Perhaps the most significant industry change has been the huge impact that online shopping has had a small retailers. “The internet has really changed the retail business the past four or five years,” he said.

Hedrick acknowledges the process of closing the stores and winding down his career is “a bit scary,” but he is looking forward to retirement. “It’s been an interesting 50 years. If I had to do it all again, would I? Probably,” he said. “I wouldn’t want to change my life.”

Linda Hedrick added, “Jerry’s a story teller and customers love him. They’ll miss the stories he shares, along with the way he’s helped to outfit them over the years.

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Williamson’s Clothiers, Chicopee Retail Mainstay, to Sell Entire Inventory, Close Its Doors

October 2, 2016

CHICOPEE, Mass. – After 60 years in the trade, including 20 years as the owner of retail mainstay Williamson’s Clothier’s, store owner Ken Williamson announced today that he will sell his entire inventory and close his business.

The store’s inventory sale opens to the public on Thursday, Oct. 5. Williamson’s, located at 223 Exchange St., will be open 9:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Thursday and Friday, 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Saturday and 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. Sunday during the sale.

In an era of big-box stores and dressed-down, casual workplaces, Williamson’s catered to a customer base with an appreciation for quality clothing and superior customer service, Williamson said.

“When I started this store 20 years ago in October, I had my eyes set on what I wanted the store to look like, what I wanted it to be, who we wanted to  serve,” he said. “I knew I couldn’t be everything to everybody. I knew I wasn’t going to compete on price and that I wanted to put an emphasis on quality, service and real value. Fortunately, it worked out pretty well.”

Williamson noted that while the Chicopee community has been tremendously supportive, the retailer has drawn from a strong regional base throughout Massachusetts, Connecticut, northern Rhode Island and southern Vermont. “I knew we were going to have to reach beyond the immediate area from the beginning and continue to do that. To have a Fortune 100 company, Mass Mutual, just five miles down the road in Springfield, has been very important to us,” Williamson said. “The outlying communities have been important but we really have been fortunate to be known throughout the region.”

Williamson got his start in the clothing business in high school, landing his first job in 1956. The store’s original owners had just opened in the Exchange street location and needed a stock boy. After serving a 16-month stint with the National Guard in Berlin, Germany, he returned and “learned the business from the ground up.”

When he purchased the store, renamed and rebranded it, he was pleased that business “just took off.”

“I just assumed business was supposed to do that. Like everything else, it’s had its peaks and valleys but I couldn’t be happier. We have customers who really care about how they look. As corny as it may sound, when you walk out of the store you’re representing yourself and us. If it’s not good, both of us are going to suffer.

“The people we serve are more than customers. They become friends; they trust us,” Williamson said. “I’ve also been blessed with a great staff. I’ve told them, ‘Don’t ever sell anything you’re not proud of’ and they’ve always taken as much pride in our customer service as I have.”

As much as he has enjoyed his retail career and customers, Williamson is looking forward to retirement.

“Any business owner will tell you it’s not an eight-hour job. You don’t leave it when you shut off the lights each night,” he said as he had just returned from dropping off a blazer and several pairs of pants for a customer who couldn’t make it into the store. “I have a great wife, great kids and I’m looking forward to spending more time with them and a lot more time with my grandkids.”

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Iowa Rivers Revival Executive Director Explains Group’s Mission on “Great Day” morning show

September 27, 2016

molly-hanson-on-kcwi-set-09-27-16-twoMolly Hanson, executive director of the Iowa Rivers Revival, joined Great Day morning show hosts Jackie Schmillen and Lou Sipolt on KCWI-TV, Des Moines, this morning to share details of the 10-year-old organization’s mission.

Hanson, Sipolt and Schmillen talked about IRR’s priorities for the upcoming legislative session, the group’s mission and its fall fundraising campaign.

Executive Director of Iowa Rivers Revival Outlines Priorities on WOI-DT

September 26, 2016


Molly Hanson, executive director of the Iowa Rivers Revival, outlined the group’s mission and ongoing priorities during in-studio interview today with WOI-DT morning anchors Elias Johnson and Sabrina Ahmed.

Hanson discussed the need for Iowans to become active in river restoration efforts and called for additional state funding to improve water quality and continue the modification or removal of low-head dams to reduce safety hazards and increase water recreation opportunities around the state. She also emphasized the need for state officials to set a turtle trapping season and daily limits.


Branstad, Government and Economic Development Officials Cut Ribbon on Accumold Expansion

August 9, 2016

Accumold ribbon cutting 2 08 09 16ANKENY, Iowa – Accumold, a global leader in the design, development and production of micro-engineered parts for various high-tech industries, cut the ribbon today on its second expansion since 2011.

Gov. Terry Branstad and other government and economic development officials were present to dedicate a 40,000-square-foot, $10-million expansion that will result in more than 200 employees in the next three years. The addition is a robust/hardened facility capable of withstanding an F-5 tornado.

Noting his involvement in previous Accumold celebrations, Branstad said, “This is a habit I’ve gotten used to and one I enjoy very much. Few things make me happier than to see Iowa businesses grow and thrive as much as Accumold has.”

Branstad said the new facility was about more than the success of a company. Citing former congressman Jack Kemp’s admonition that “economic growth doesn’t mean anything if it leaves people out,” Branstad added that Accumold’s growth “means so much to so many people.”

“This latest expansion created work for architects and engineers, construction workers, plumbers and electricians. It will result in the creation over 200 high-skill, good-paying jobs over the next few years and, in fact, the company has already hired more than 100 people,” the six-term governor said. “These are jobs that challenge people to innovate, create and to help set the pace in the medical, automotive, defense, aerospace and telecommunications industries. The technology and advances developed by Accumold’s people improve the lives of millions of other people around the world every day. And, something tells me they’re just getting started.”

Ankeny Mayor Gary Lorenz recalled the city’s start as a coal-mining town and outlined its evolution into a rapidly growing, economically diverse community. He described how Accumold was founded in a nearby rented garage in 1985 with a commitment to develop micro-molding parts and technology that didn’t even exist at the time.

“Since our founding days, Ankeny has survived adversity in the form of tornadoes, the Farm Recession of the 1980s, the recession of the last decade and more.  But we’ve always come back stronger thanks to our ingenuity, our perseverance and our commitment to make tomorrow even better than today,” Lorenz said. “Those are the very traits I admire in the entire team here at Accumold.”

David Maahs, Executive Vice President of Economic Development at the Greater Des Moines Partnership, said that the expansion is big news for the entire region.

“Greater Des Moines’ success stems from our ability to work together as a region, as well as the leadership that our corporate community shows,” Maahs said. “Accumold has long been a great corporate leader, and their success has benefited not only the City of Ankeny but the entire Greater Des Moines region.”

Accumold President and CEO Roger Hargens attributed the company’s success to its philosophy of “never waiting for things to change.”

“Instead, we have changed them ourselves. We constantly evaluate what we do and then change what we need to change so that we are more innovative, more efficient, more productive and more competitive to stay ahead of the pack every day,” he said.

Hargens said the expansion, which has the capability to be a stand-alone facility because of its unique features, represents a “vastly different change in our operations and our approach to business.”

“As we approached this latest expansion, we changed things ourselves because our customers who already rely on us needed to know that we will be able to deliver uninterrupted as we always do, no matter what Mother Nature or anyone else might throw at us,” he said. “We’re able to do that because of our extraordinary employees, an investment team that we think is the best in the business, our customers who truly are strategic partners who collaborate with us at every turn to design exceptional products and our partners in the public sector and educational community.”

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            Since its inception, Accumold’s mission has been the production of super-micro, ultra-precision, plastic injection-molded parts with components that often measure in mere microns. Parts manufactured by the firm are critical components for the medical, micro-optics, electronics and other high-tech emerging industries.  They can be found in personal communication devices, telecommunications, surgical tools, hearing aids, medical devices, antennas, connectors and more. To produce those parts, Accumold builds specialized molding machines engineered to handle volumes from prototypes to millions per year while maintaining consistent, precise tolerances that are unique in the industry. For more information about the company, log on to

Iowa State University Bus Driver Guilty in Student Death

August 1, 2016

AMES, Iowa — An Iowa State University bus driver entered a guilty plea to a single misdemeanor charge in the case of an 18-year-old student who was struck and killed on a rainy December 2015 morning. The driver faces no more than 30 days in jail, Eric Woolson writes for School Transportation News.