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 firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him at Twitter.com/@George_Plaven.