Reinvention after 40 Years

When Robert Vance opted not to renew its lease after 15 years at The Village Green in the Chicago suburb of Lincolnshire, owner Jack Shniderman had some important decisions to make. “With an occupancy rate at less than 50 percent, the decision not to renew the lease in Lincolnshire was obvious. Initially, I wasn’t sure whether to stay in business at all. I decided I would stay only if I could find the perfect location and a perfect associate with whom to build a new business.”

Jack Shniderman and Phil Borntrager

Shniderman ultimately hired Phil Borntrager, formerly senior men’s buyer of seven Mark Shale stores. He also signed a lease at Deerfield Square, where they will move end-August, just in time for fall selling. “It’s a young vibrant center just 15 minutes away with many wonderful tenants. I decided that while we need to reinvent ourselves and go after the next generation, we also need to maintain our core customers, some of whom we’ve been serving for 40 years. Fortunately, both Phil and I have a tremendous passion for this business.”

Indeed. The goal now is to add some younger lines to their traditional core, while maintaining their good/better/best pricing strategy. The menswear mix had been 25% clothing, 15% furnishings and 60% sportswear and will likely move even more toward sportswear, with much of the tailored business in custom. Woven sportshirts will remain a key category but the addition of more contemporary collections should add a younger dimension.

Asked what he’s learned after 40 years in the business, Shniderman doesn’t hesitate. “One: Never take the customer for granted: you have to earn their loyalty every day. Two: Don’t be too cavalier about their money: it’s still their money. And three: People will always respond to fabulous product. If it’s really great, they’ll spend!”

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