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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