The Roaring ’20s, Post War ’50s, Counterculture ’60s, “Me” ’70s, “Greed Is Good” ’80s, “Grunge” ’90s and “Mash-Up” 2000s are all fashion trend labels, from a Rolodex of decades, spanning more than most people’s lifetimes.
Metzger’s Inc., locally owned for three generations, is a men’s and women’s clothier that has successfully encountered, embraced and evolved between every era, and is on the way to celebrating its centennial this year.
Established in 1919 by brothers Melvin and Leonard Metzger Sr., the clothier first opened within the confines of Downtown Mobile’s barely modernized, nascently vibrant Central Business District, when horse and buggy transport was still predominant on Dauphin Street.
The end of World War II saw the beginning of the second generation arriving to work at the retailer. Albert and Leonard Metzger Jr., scions of the founders, returned from military service to make their mark on the business.
The early 1960s to late 1970s was both a high-water mark for the company in growth as well as foreshadowing of a massive sea change in consumer demand, which facilitated significant downsizing 20 years later.
A move to a five-story, 35,000-square-foot flagship space located at 106 Dauphin St. in 1966 was indicative of Metzger’s dominance in the local market at the time. The opening of Bel Air Mall in 1967 precipitated the retailer’s long-term decline.
“When the malls opened, everything changed,” third-generation owner Ken Metzger said. “The malls were the place everyone wanted to shop. We had an 18,000-square-foot store inside Bel Air Mall where I first worked after moving back home from Tennessee in the 1980s. The malls had better parking. Shopping downtown simply died. Eventually there wasn’t hardly anything left but the courthouse.”
In the late 1970s, their five-story mega site finally shuttered, along with satellite stores in Prichard and Pensacola.
A University of Alabama graduate, Ken honed his skills in ladies’ apparel, working for Goldstein’s in Memphis. After returning, he and his father (Albert Metzger) oversaw the men’s and women’s departments as a partnership. Leonard Metzger Jr.’s interest was bought out around the same time frame and he died in 2011.
“Like any young buck, I was full of ideas on how to change things. After working with my dad for several years, though, I realized he wasn’t quite as dumb as I originally thought. In fact, he was pretty darn smart,” Ken said. Albert Metzger passed away in 1993.
Ken’s legacy, however, was cemented for being the first furrier in the country to import materials from China at a deep discount for suppliers, as reported in an article written at the time. His Southeastern Fur Co-op (SEFCO) only lasted three years (1986 – 1989), but, at its peak, generated $1.5 million in revenue and had a membership of more than 25 retailers in six states.
“The big boys in New York eventually got wind of what I was doing and copied my model, but with larger economies of scale,” Ken said. “Eventually, after closing my co-op, I started buying from them. That said, we definitely introduced the idea to the U.S. market.”
In 1997 Ken moved out of Bel Air Mall, seeing the downturn in foot traffic and anticipating a resurgence of strip centers. In 2006 he moved to his current 6,000-square-foot boutique site, located at 3702 Dauphin, which is currently thriving.
“We went back to our core: a high-end fur vault and repair service, customer service and quality merchandise. We don’t worry about the Amazons of the world,” he said.
“I can’t tell you how many times someone has come in here to shop and told me that they still wear suits bought from us over 20 years ago. That’s what we’re all about and Metzger’s isn’t going anywhere.”
Business moves, transactions
Keene, New Hampshire-headquartered grocer Piggly Wiggly held a grand opening this week, offering giveaways and tastings for visitors, at their new 31,528-square-foot space located at 1078 S. Hickory Street in Loxley. The new site is situated roughly a block away from their prior 9,000-square-foot footprint formerly found at 1087 N. Hickory Street in Loxley.
Opening to fanfare, the new building boasts expanded parking with over 100 spaces available for shoppers. Nearly $5 million in capital was invested in the new site built out on some 5 acres of property. Daphne-based Fulcrum Construction was the developer for the project.
The upgraded facilities will employ 60 workers on-site, with the possibility for additional ramp up based on seasonal needs. The new Piggly Wiggly will reportedly have larger food selections, five-course dinner night offerings and periodic wine and beer tasting activities.
The site also has six additional 1,200-square-foot building spaces, divvied up equally on each side of the grocer, currently available to rent out for retail or business use.
Daphne-based Simply CBD has leased 1,500 square feet of retail space within the Yester Oaks Shopping Center located at 3702 Airport Blvd. in Mobile for a newly opened second location. The hemp retailer employs around two people per store and is co-owned locally by business partners Aaron VanHauter and Chad Bartz.
The small business is an affiliate of Lawrence, Kansas-based Sacred Leaf, a national CBD supplier, and plans are in place for expansion into Pensacola sometime in early 2020, according to Bartz. Carrie McKinley with Delaney Development handled the lease transaction for Simply CBD.
Brentwood, Tennessee-headquartered Tractor Supply Company recently held a grand opening for their sixth site located at 851 U.S. 98 in Daphne. Built out from the ground up, the retailer employees 14 and sits on two acres of property with a building covering 15,500 square feet of floor space.
Daphne-based Fulcrum Construction was the general contractor on the project. Tractor Supply Co. opened its first space locally in 2010 in Summerdale and over time has expanded out to Bay Minette, Theodore, Saraland, West Mobile and, now, Daphne.
Marietta Urquhart with White-Spunner Realty recently reported the sale of a former sign shop, located at 4314 Halls Mill Road, to Mobile Fence Company Inc. David Cooper with Berkshire Hathaway worked for the buyer in the transaction.
The site sits on about an acre of property and is located near Crown Auto Body, Copeland’s Pet Motel & Grooming and Advanced Integrated Security. Parts of the building have been leased out before and could be open for lease again, per Urquhart, who represented the seller in the transaction.
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