Putting that shingle on the door sounds pretty darned nice right about now as the ice still clings to the sidewalks in sleepy, enchanting Geneva, IL.
And it's exactly what lifelong Geneva businessman and cancer survivor Victor Erday III hopes to do once the liquidation sale is over at Erday's, the men's clothing store his grandfather founded almost 88 years ago.
"I’ve actually been looking forward to this day," the store's co-owner said in a phone interview Monday. "We almost did this (liquidation) last year. All the brothers took a 50 percent pay cut just to keep it going, so we could do it for another year."
For old-timers like me, it's hard to imagine Geneva without Erday's, and we can only be grateful it lasted as long as it did. Look up and down the Fox River or east-west from Chicago to DeKalb, and you won't find many—if any—indendent men's clothiers in downtown locations. Even the American Male store in Oswego has branched out and is selling women's clothes and accessories.
Erday repeated what he had told the Daily Herald—that the Casual Friday experiment eventually became Casual Every Single Darned Day, and that made it very hard for a family-owned independent seller of men's clothes.
There are plenty of other reasons, of course, from discounting department stores to competition on Randall Road to a shaky economy that still hasn't gained footing to changing buying habits.
"For guys, clothes are a low priority," Erday said. "Women buy because they want to; men buy because they need to. And you don't need to if you've got to take care of the mortgage. In 2008, we started seeing a lot of foreclosures (in Geneva, Batavia and St. Charles.) I'd look at the newspapers and there'd be 20 to 24 a month.
"Plus, back in '70s and '80s, what did husbands and sons get for Christmas or their birthdays? For the most part, clothes. Now it's electronics—or some other online buying."
The Erday's business began when Victor III's grandfather—Victor Erday, Sr.—immigrated from Hungary in 1919. He spent some time in Aurora, then moved to Geneva and started a tailor shop in on Third Street where "the old Maverick Shop" used to be, Victor said.
Victor Sr. built the Erday Building at 10 N. Third St. in 1930 and added the north end in 1962. The major expansion out to state street was in 1973, according to the Erday's website. There apparently was a walkway between the two buildings, which eventually was closed off when the buildings were connected.
Victor Sr. and Victor Jr. ran the family business, and at one point, all of Victor Jr.'s six children worked at the store.
Of course, with three generations of "Victor Erdays" working at the store, there was bound to be a certain amount of customer confusion.
"Grandpa used to come back at Christmas time, and somebody would call for me and say, 'We'd like to speak to Victor, Jr.' or 'We want Victor, Jr.' and he'd say, 'I am Victor, Jr.' It was like 'Who's on first?' " Victor III said. "That happened all the time."
Despite the fishing opportunity that lies on the horizon, it's impossible not to remember all the good times and the sweat equity that went along with job.
"In eighth grade, my dad had us on the floor selling merchandise. After school, we went to work. In college, we came home for the holidays and went to work, sweeping floors and unloading freight from the trucks. Now, we still sweep floors and unload the freight from the trucks. When it’s a family business, you still have to do it all."
What Happens Next
While the independent men's clothing retailer might be a dying breed, Victor III is just glad he's not dying, period. In 1992, he was diagnosed with stage 4 lymphoma, went to Loyola Hospital and underwent treatments for six years.
"They threw the book at me, but the bottom line is, I’m still here," he said.
And that's one of the reasons he's looking forward to this day.
"I want to enjoy life to the fullest here," he said. "There are only 'X' amount of fishing trips in a lifetime, and I want to make sure I get the full quota."
Erday says he has four Canada trips planned already. But he likes to take his boat to Lake Delavan and Lake Geneva in Wisconsin, and who knows? Maybe he'll even dip a line in the Fox River, which is something he hasn't done for a long time.
That will have to wait, of course, until the liquidation sale is over. Victor said he didn't know how long that would be—whenever sales slow down and items are gone from the shelves.
The Erdays plan to rent the 6,000 square feet of space that will become available in the Erday building, which includes not only the store space north of Perlman's Fine Jewelry but offices and shipping and receiving. They have a family apartment on the second floor, and there's an existing tenant on the second floor, as well. They also own part of a building on Hamilton Street, east of Giesche's.
"Instead of retailers, we'll become landlords, I guess," Erday said.
Victor said his brother, Bob, who is 20 years younger his junior, hopes to stay involved in the men's clothing industry, while his brother Jim, who is just a few years younger, probably would join him in retirement.
"Jimmy likes fishing, too," Vic said.
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