Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Levi Strauss Cuts Supply to Landmark Red Bud Store `Blue' Jeans

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Levi Strauss Cuts Supply to Landmark Red Bud Store `Blue' Jeans

Article excerpt

For nearly half a century, Don Rathert has sold Levi's jeans and jackets from his 110-year-old clothing store in Red Bud. Last year he sold $77,000 worth of Levi's goods, which was 90 percent of his business.

Now the corporate bosses at Levi Strauss & Co. in San Francisco have notified Rathert that his store does not fit the "image" the company wants for its dealers. As of March 15, his supply will be cut off. "It will put me out of business," Rathert said.

The store is in a 140-year-old building of 19th-century German-colonial style. Customers walk down a single aisle on the original wood floors. Rathert is proud of the "new" ceiling, installed in 1970, and a roof that was replaced only three years ago. Merchandise is stacked on old-fashioned wooden shelves and counters. In a letter last month, Julia Hansen, manager of retail and distribution initiatives, said the company "has reassessed the way the Levi's and Dockers brands are presented at retail." The new emphasis is on "high-image retail customers whose concepts most enhance the image of the stores in which they are sold," the letter said. Rathert seems more perplexed than angry. "I've been selling Levi's since 1949," he said. "We've got other stuff, but it doesn't sell." Although area farmers have long bought jeans at his store, his customers come from all walks of life, the most typical being "just the average guy," he said. They come from across Southern Illinois and points beyond, including the Chicago area. A woman from Denver comes by every year to stock up on Christmas gifts, he said. Customer Gordon Deal, a Red Bud paramedic, said that Rathert's store is "not much to look at, but they sure have the jeans. …

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