HINSDALE, Ill. — Steve Potter, owner of Hinsdale Clothiers, Ltd., had his eyes and mind firmly set on 50 years in business, but his heart had other ideas.
Potter, who has spent 45 years in the men’s clothing business, underwent heart surgery in April and then suffered three strokes. He spent 52 days in the hospital, coping with post-surgery complications and missing his business all the while.
Potter wants to work another five years to reach the 50-year milestone but he recognizes it’s time to retire, close the store he purchased with a business partner in 1989 and sell his entire inventory in the weeks ahead.
The store’s inventory sale opens to the public on Thursday, Oct. 2. Hinsdale Clothiers, located at 777 N. York Road in Gateway Square, will be open 9:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. weekdays, 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Saturday, and 12:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. Sunday during the sale.
Potter’s career started at Henry C. Lytton’s on Chicago’s State Street after graduating from Ferris State University in Michigan. He transferred to New York City after three years, returned to Chicago and then honed his custom-clothing skills at Gaede’s, a Wheaton men’s and women’s clothier. He purchased Hinsdale Clothiers, Ltd., in 1989 with a business partner who died in 2003.
He said he enjoyed the three big elements of running a successful men’s clothing store — working with clients, standing out from mass-marketing competitors and leading employees.
“You have to like working with people and I do. When you work with someone and they see the improvement in their wardrobe, they’re more comfortable and confident. It changes their lives and that’s very rewarding.
“Specialty clothiers face a lot of competition and I’ve enjoyed providing a different product than the mass merchants,” Potter said. “You also have to like your employees, work with them to be better and strive to be more. We’ve done that together very well over the years. I’m going to miss all of those things.”
Some challenges, such the eight sales downturns sparked by recessions and troubling world events in the past 25 years, won’t be missed as much. Neither will other pressures created by big-box stores, internet marketers, discount prices and today’s dressed-down fashions that began with casual Fridays in the late 1990s.
“As an industry, we made an error in not fighting back,” he said. But, he added, many clothiers adapted in the 2000s by upgrading their selections to differentiate themselves from larger stores. Those that didn’t, did not survive.
While Potter is closing Hinsdale Clothiers, he hopes to find a new, part-time retail niche as he moves forward. “I enjoy taking care of customers and I expect I’ll be someplace where I can do that,” he added.