MARION, Ill. – Sabrina Yearack, owner of the Wells Big & Tall Store, might be thinking of that old Kenny Rogers song “The Gambler” as she announced today that she will close the store her family founded in 1966.
Yearack, who persuaded her father to move exclusively to big and tall clothing in 1990, has known when to hold her cards and now she’s decided it’s time to fold them.
“For 21 years, we’ve had a great run in the big and tall clothing business and I feel like I’m going out on top. Our store is in an excellent financial position and I’m getting out now because I’ve seen too many of my peers forced out,” Yearack said. “We’re having the sale because I’ve chosen to move on to my next adventure. I’m not sure what that adventure is yet, but I plan on making it as fun and memorable as these years have been.”
The public sale of the store’s inventory will begin Thursday. The store, 1010 East Dickinson St., will be open from 9:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. weekdays, 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Saturday and 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Sunday during the quitting-business sale.
The Wells family, including Yearack’s grandparents, father and brother moved to Marion from California, opening a used clothing store called Wells California Clothing in 1966.
“Back in those days, thrift stores were something new in Southern Illinois. My Dad and Grandpa used to travel back and forth to California every other month to buy merchandise from donation centers in Beverly Hills,” she explained.
As her grandparents retired in 1968, Yearack’s parents, Chuck and Bobbie, shifted the store’s focus to new men’s wear and ladies’ wear, buying clothes from the then-flourishing garment district in St. Louis. She joined the family business in 1988.
“I had never wanted to work in the business because I had grown up in it and saw firsthand how hard my parents worked, but joined thinking I would do it to help them until I found something else. I found out I really loved it,” Yearack said. “Dad let me take on most of the business and it really flourished.”
Her family had first ventured into the big and tall niche in the mid-1980s as a number of chain stores – “all the biggies,” as Yearack notes – began to set up shop in the area. On her advice, her father discontinued regular menswear and moved strictly to big and tall clothing in 1990. “He knew it was the right decision,” she said.
Since then, the specialty store has provided dress and casual apparel for big and tall men throughout southern Illinois, southern Indiana, Kentucky and southeast Missouri.
“The trend toward casual clothes has hurt mom-and-pop clothing stores all over the country and a lot of those stores went away in the 1990s because new malls sprang up in every neighborhood, but we’ve done well,” Yearack said. “We have clients who have shopped with us for 40 years. They’ve brought their children and grandchildren in and they’re still shopping with us. They’re going to miss our store and we’re going to miss them.”
She noted her building will be available for lease after the store’s merchandise has been sold.