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Well-suited for retirement

Baker closes Hoffman Clothiers

Baker closes Hoffman Clothiers

December 22, 2009|By ANDREW SCHOTZ

HAGERSTOWN -- On Tuesday, when his downtown Hagerstown menswear shop shut down after 90 years, Jim Baker said, "It's kind of a bittersweet situation. It's like your mother-in-law driving a brand new Mercedes off a cliff."

It's a joke Baker, who is preparing to start the next phase of his life, has used before.

In 1984, after 19 years with DeVono's Men's Wear in Hagerstown, Baker bought Hoffman Clothiers on North Potomac Street.

He said he's eager to retire. He has personal interests to pursue and family he wants to see more often. His seventh grandchild is due in April.

Word the store was closing got out in waves. Some customers knew months ago.

Betty Fairbourn was caught off guard. She was out of town for awhile and by chance stopped at the store Tuesday with her daughter, Lisa.

"Forever, this was a mainstay in our lives," Fairbourn said. "What a shock."

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Fairbourn's husband, Cal, who died last year, probably shopped at Hoffman Clothiers for as long as Baker owned it, Lisa said.

Betty Fairbourn had planned to get a gift certificate for her son, Roger. Baker asked if she'd like to buy him some clothes instead. She wasn't sure -- she didn't know Roger's size.

Baker checked his records to get Roger's measurements. Lisa and Betty Fairbourn went ahead and bought a few things.

Baker hugged them both.

For Betty Fairbourn, he had a story he would have told her husband.

One Sunday in church, a woman cried throughout a pastor's sermon. Finally, the pastor asked what was wrong.

The woman said her husband died the day before and she kept replaying his last words in her head.

The pastor wondered: "What did he say?"

The woman replied: "Please put down the gun!"

Betty Fairbourn laughed and agreed that her husband would have liked the joke.

Baker later said his customers are his friends and he has felt honored to serve them.

He's kept notes on their measurements and tastes. If something came in that might interest them, he let them know.

Baker committed to closing Hoffman Clothiers months ago.

"We made the decision to do it last year," he said. "Everything has gone very smoothly."

On Tuesday, inventory at a shop once plush with suits, pants and ties was bare. Many shelves were empty. Almost everything was for sale, including furniture, register tape and carbon paper.

Janice Downey, who works around the corner, said she has shopped at Hoffman Clothiers for 24 years and was back to browse one last time.

She said downtown stores depend on downtown employees, and vice versa, and it's unfortunate to see them close.

She said she was searching for "something for the established man," referring to her father, Vernon Downey, a retired South Hagerstown High School teacher. Now, she'll look to the outlet stores.

Baker tied up one loose end last week -- he sold the building to GloryFire Ministries, which has rented part of it since March.

Maryland state property records show that Baker bought 11-13-15 N. Potomac St. from R. Paul Hoffman in 1990 for $260,000.

Sheldon Green, GloryFire's senior pastor, said in a phone interview that the church will knock out a wall and make the storefronts one large, open area, probably around February or March.

Green said the church has at least 40 active members. The extra space will let the congregation grow.

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