MIDDLETOWN, Ohio -- The last of a Cincinnati family’s historical line of men’s clothing stores is about to close after nearly 100 years in business.
Worthmore Men's Clothing, will shut down at Middletown’s Towne Mall Galleria in two to three weeks, said Mark Krumbein, store owner and Cincinnati criminal defense attorney.
The family business, one of the oldest continually operating men’s clothing’s stores in Ohio, is the fifth and last clothing store owned by the Krumbein family.
Once a store that had such strong ties to the community—and sold them, too—Worthmore's closing formally marks the end of an era where customers were also friends and dressing to impress was a way of everyday life.
Business has been terrible,” Krumbein said, who kept the store open as a tribute to his father who worked at the store until he was 90 years old. “I tried to keep it going, but it’s not working now that the era has sort of passed.”
The Krumbein clothing legacy started with Mark Krumbein’s grandfather, Max Krumbein, who operated a door-to-door business on a carriage in the early 1900’s. He later sold silk shirts at a corner stand, and finally opened Krumbein's Dry Goods, the first of several men’s clothing stores, in 1917 at Elmwood Place.
“There was a great interest in dressing formal for little occasions—going out to dinner, going out to a movie, going to the theater, and also of course going to work,” said Mark Krumbein.
Krumbein’s father, Milton, began working at that store when he was just 13 years old, and eventually took over the business in the early 1950’s.
“In a different era, a different time, it was a big part of everyone’s lives,” Krumbein of his father Milton’s Cincinnati stores.
The store at Elmwood Place, which sold men’s formal clothing and work clothes and eventually started to sell to women too, was just as much a community gathering place as it was a place to buy a suit or dress, Krumbein said.
It had a U.S. Post Office annex, a liquor store and Krumbein’s law office tucked away in the back.
“People would stop by every, daily, every week, every couple of weeks and visit. They'd sit down to talk,” he said. “Post men would even take their lunch breaks at our store.”
And for the customers who didn’t have bank accounts, Milton Krumbein would cash their paychecks.
“He would give them credit when they couldn’t get credit. They could get their suit for the wedding. They could get a suit to get a job interview. They could have work clothes so they would be able to do their work at the railroad. It really helped a lot of people,” Krumbein said.
Larry Bredestege, 82, of Cincinnati, recalls walking to the Elmwood store with his colleagues at the railroad in the early 1950’s to buy pin stripe overalls for work.
“It was like a mom-and-dad operation up there,” he said. “It was convenient because the only other place to buy that stuff was at Sears.”
Arlene Baker, 92, of Elmwood Place, became close with the Krumbein family as a customer when she started hanging out at the store.
“There was always chairs there—like maybe five? And I would always sit there and talk,” Baker said. “One day Milton’s wife said to me, ‘Why don’t you work for us?’
Baker became an employee, and Milton Krumbein opened up two more Krumbein store locations. He later bought the men’s clothing store Sullivan's, in the Village of Lockland, before purchasing Worthmore's.
“When they closed the stores, it was expected I guess, but it took a lot out of our lives,” said Baker, who eventually started working at Worthmore after the other stores closed.
Krumbein said his family's business has struggled since the opening of large department stores and malls in the 1960’s.
"Because of the increased mobility of society, all of a sudden people could drive 10 miles away to go to the Tri-County Mall or Kenwood mall,” he said. “They were impersonal and no longer real community gathering places.”
Worthmore's clothing style and philosophy has changed a lot, too, since the family bought the store in 1978.
Gail West, 67, of Trenton and the only store employee, said they started selling sport coats when major employers in the area, like AK Steel, started to dress more casual.
“You have to think about what you can sell, with where your store is located,” she said. “In Middletown, I found out that we’re like a year behind the fashion when it comes out. We have to really know our customers and what they want.”
Krumbein said he has not set a date to officially close the store, but he's now selling all merchandise for 50 percent off in a final liquidation sale.
He hopes that even when the clothes are all gone, his father's men's clothing legacy will live on.
"I'm really proud of my family's tradition. You know, being a part of the community. Not only the business part-- selling clothes-- but also, my dad in a lot of ways was a big help to people's lives."