End of an era: Uptown mainstay closing store doors after 56 years

2013-02-01T00:00:00Z End of an era: Uptown mainstay closing store doors after 56 yearsBy George Plaven of The Montana Standard Montana Standard
February 01, 2013 12:00 am  • 

Chuck Richards remembers a time when he sold ties off the rack for 65 cents, or two for $1.50. Now, a good tie can cost up to $25 — as much as an entire suit from that same period.

For decades, Richards and Rochelle Men’s Store has kept Uptown Butte looking dapper with all the latest fashions. But a combination of factors, including age and the economy, means the longtime business will close its doors following a liquidation sale beginning Friday.

Richards, 92, will retire to relax and take care of his wife, Estella, whom he thanks for her lasting support. Closing the store is a sad step, he said, but the time has come.

“Everything in its time,” Richards repeated.

Before Richards and partner Remo Rochelle went in together on the shop in 1956, it was run by Jim Spier as Town Talk Tailor and Clothier. Richards, born and raised in Centerville, worked for Spier while attending Butte High School in 1939, when the store moved into its current location at 17 N. Main St.

Spier started the business from scratch in 1915, when tailors were set up all around town. He had Richards clean the floors, wash windows and run errands while making the move.

Richards was paid $1 his first full day on the job before earning a raise — to a whopping $1.25. Still, he returned to Spier in 1946 after four years of service with the U.S. Marine Corps in World War II.

When Spier retired in 1956, Richards seized the opportunity to buy the store. He formed a partnership with his friend, Rochelle, who had worked across the street at the former Al’s Photo Shop.

“All we wanted to do was build goodwill by selling quality merchandise at a moderate price,” Richards said. “We didn’t want to be the highest prices in town, or the lowest. We wanted to be right down the middle of the road.”

Richards and Rochelle opened with a “gigantic, money-raising $50,000 sale,” according to a framed newspaper ad that hangs in Richards’ office. The deals then, with prices “mercilessly slashed,” are unheard of today: $2.95 for shirts, $7.50 men’s hats and $1 khaki pants.

Rochelle later retired in 1980, and Richards’ son, Ernie, joined the business. Ernie Richards, also a licensed pharmacist at Driscoll Drug, gradually assumed ownership of Richards and Rochelle, calling it a “natural fit.”

Father and son continued serving three generations of loyal customers, and rolled with the changes in town. Mines closed, Montana Power restructured, but Richards and Rochelle kept its niche.

“It’s always been our personal service,” Ernie Richards said. “We would take care of their personal needs, and wait on them.”

Though the community has been supportive, Ernie Richards said the store can no longer stay open. He will continue to work part-time as a pharmacist.

A few people have shown interest in the storefront, but Ernie Richards declined to specify. It is, of course, emotional for him to leave behind a business that’s become part of his life, he said.

“It’s like anything in life,” he said. “It’s a change. You have to adapt and move with it.”

— Reporter George Plaven may be reached at 496-5597, or via email at george.plaven@lee.net. Follow him at Twitter.com/@George_Plaven.

Copyright 2015 Montana Standard. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(11) Comments

  1. butteisthebestplaceonearth
    Report Abuse
    butteisthebestplaceonearth - February 05, 2013 12:54 pm
    if they would reduce their prices to back in the good all days they would have all the business they need! i would pay $1.50 for a tie and $2 for a shirt even if was made in china....
  2. Drifter
    Report Abuse
    Drifter - February 02, 2013 12:33 pm
    Best wishes to both Chuck and Ernie. Two of the nicest guys anyone could ever meet in Butte.
  3. zubie41
    Report Abuse
    zubie41 - February 01, 2013 11:14 pm
    A couple of things: Two very knowledgeable and courteous gentlemen. I still have some of the clothing I purchsed from these guys 20 years ago; You truely do get what you pay for! And in this case, it was quality.
  4. Disclaimer
    Report Abuse
    Disclaimer - February 01, 2013 10:10 pm
    I’ll miss the store and saying hellow to Chuck and Ernie. I always enjoyed going in and finding a nice quality piece for a reasonable price. What’s with these regular losers on the Montana Standard who never have anything positive to say? DrivebyGravey – you deserve nothing more personal than a Walmart. Bigboybutte – Your’s was a cowardly comment and nothing more than a cheap shot. Put on your bigboy pants and have a little dignity. Montana Standard – wake up and understand that few people bother to comment on your stories because of the loose application of your own etiquette rules.
  5. 1223
    Report Abuse
    1223 - February 01, 2013 8:57 pm
    such wonderful people. i will miss seeing them up town. i guess age 92 is time to retire Mr Richards. enjoy!!!
  6. juanajob
    Report Abuse
    juanajob - February 01, 2013 4:05 pm
    love the store but prices are too high unless you are a overpaid attorney!
    people dont wear suits and ties like they use to not even at church.
    uptown butte is pretty sad but thats not uncommon in detroit, gary, any other shrinking city. the north korea comment is funny and downtown Bozeman so beautiful and lively. we do love the ruins of the uptown. and remember in Rome people love the ruins.

    Happy retirement....
  7. ButteRose
    Report Abuse
    ButteRose - February 01, 2013 3:41 pm
    We will miss the store, greatly. We always stopped in when we visited Butte, and both Ernie and Chuck remembered us. A big piece of old Butte is going! The last of an era! Good luck!
    John Sullivan and Rosie Olsen
  8. Curlew
    Report Abuse
    Curlew - February 01, 2013 12:29 pm
    The Wayback Mechine...

    Fond Memories of Butte Montana. Another Butte Icon fades into History.

    Remember when it was a pleasurable experience to go to Uptown Butte and spend a whole day and evening shopping, meeting people you know and viewing the window displays at Winebergs instead of a chore that you don’t look forward to and walking two miles cause you can’t park?

    Remember when you could buy Quality merchandise, some locally made from Richard’s & Rochelle’S or the Toggery that you didn’t mind paying extra for, alterations made to your clothes by skilled, real people so that they fit instead of looking like your wearing a window curtain, a nice smart new hat to top it all off?

    You could walk up the street and browse the latest albums and sheet music, (for those skilled enough to play it.) at Len Water’s walk over and get you picture taken in that nice new suit and hat at Al’s Photo shop, Williams Camera, or Smithers, go have a Home Cooked Delicious lunch instead of what ever they have in a cardboard box from the freezer warmed in the microwave and cold when you get it. ( they expect a tip? )

    You could take a dime from your nice new suit , call your significant other, ask her to get dressed in that nice new White Stag skirt from Wineberg’s and ask if he / she would like to go have dinner at the Rocky Mountain Cafe in Medreville and movie at the Fox, Montana, or the Rialto theater.

    Life was good in those years Butte was something to see and grow up in Ernie Richards and Chuck Richards lived and saw it all.

    ...And Look At What Butte Has Turned Into!
    People who offend travelers, retailers who are rude, then they wonder why they never come back or business never locates here.
    Thank you both.
    I will miss your store, I wish you and your family well

  9. crcologuy
    Report Abuse
    crcologuy - February 01, 2013 12:11 pm
    To the Richards, good luck, your family has been outstanding members of Butte for over 100 years, I know the family well and there are not many finer, It is sad to see another store front down in Butte. The story of Richard's and Rochell's is unfortuantely another story for the Butte's History Books, and Big Boy Butte ought to be ashamed of himself, taking a shot like that..
  10. DrivebyGravy
    Report Abuse
    DrivebyGravy - February 01, 2013 7:38 am
    Great local store will be missed
    Most people can buy a suit of the rack at herbergers and Macy's or even jc
    For one third of he cost

  11. bigboybutte
    Report Abuse
    bigboybutte - February 01, 2013 6:46 am
    Best of Luck to Chuck. The son always seems to have a mean or snarky thing to say about everyone, but Chuck was nice to my wife.

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