HANOVER, N.H. – The owner of two local retail mainstays, Rare Essentials and Essentials for Men, said today that she will sell both businesses’ entire inventories and close their doors.
“Someone once said, ‘Nothing lasts forever. That’s the easiest lesson we all learn in the hardest way.’ They were absolutely right. I’ve loved every day of work for nearly 35 years, but you can’t do something or be the same forever,” Lynn Kochanek said. “It’s a tough decision, but it’s really time to move on. It’s very, very sad for me, but this is the time to do it.”
Kochanek and her husband, Walter, opened the original Rare Essentials women’s clothing store in Brattleboro, Vt., in 1981. He suffered a heart attack and died on Dec. 29. Walter’s father had passed away only eight days earlier.
Rare Essentials specializes in high fashion clothing and shoes, featuring many European labels. Essentials for Men offers some contemporary Italian brands but focused more on traditional menswear. Both stores will be open 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. weekdays and Saturday, and noon to 5:00 p.m. Sunday during the sale.
We’ve known most of our customers for years, even generations. We’ve been there as they’ve prepared for some of the biggest milestone events of their lives,” Kochanek said. “They are like family. They’ve been so loyal and supportive, and they’ve blessed me with so many wonderful memories. That’s why it’s so important to me that we make this difficult move with as much integrity and care as possible.”
Kochanek had been a merchandise buyer for a department store before she and Walter moved to New Hampshire when he became the chief financial officer at the Experiment in International Living (EIL) and School for International Trading.
“Walter was an accountant and a finance guy. He worked as the controller at Rhode Island College and then as the chief financial officer at Cornell Veterinary College before we moved here. We felt that the area was under-retailed and I wanted to use my professional skills so we made the decision to open our first store in Brattleboro,” Kochanek said. “I couldn’t have been happier.”
Within three years, Walter Kochanek had left his position at EIL and was working full-time in the clothing business.
“We knew we were in for some difficult challenges, combining a new marriage and a new business, but we approached it from an intellectual, rather than emotional, point of view. We both had our clearly defined roles. He let me do my thing, I let him do his, and it worked out very, very well for us,” Kochanek said.
The Kochaneks ultimately opened and operated 13 stores with 60 employees — including businesses in Concord, Bedford, West Lebanon, Hanover and Keene, N.H., and Brattleboro and Rutland, Vt. — before deciding 11 years ago to begin scaling back.
Kochanek has led “dress for success” courses for a major East Coast University since 2010, but is intent on caring for both stores’ clients before deciding the next chapter of her life. “Walter and I were married for 37 years and in business together for 35 years. You couldn’t ask for more than that. One door closes and another opens,” Kochanek said.
# # # #