It has been a mere 18 months since the future of Hardwick Clothes seemed to be nonexistent.
Millions of dollars of new equipment and 70 new employees later, the Hardwick Clothes family gathered to celebrate the company’s 135th anniversary with a ceremonial tree planting, cake and punch, and an optimistic outlook on what is to come.
“This is celebrating 135 years of great people working together,” Hardwick President and CEO Bruce Bellusci said. “This company is not about the name. It’s not about the building. It’s not about any of our team. It’s not about the management. It’s about each individual in this company.”
He said the company has been through tough times during this first year under the new ownership of local businessman Allan Jones and Jones CapitalCorp LLC.
“You guys have done an amazing job in a short period of time to go from where this company was to where we are today. It is tremendous progress,” Bellusci told the employees gathered for the celebration.
He noted his 35 years in the business “working with some of the biggest companies making some of the finest products in the world.”
“What you guys are producing and getting off this line is really spectacular,” Bellusci said. “The quality, the fit, the look — I wish I could take every single one of you with us around the country to the stores and the shows. We had a phenomenal reaction.
“In New York, everybody in the world was there. They came by the Hardwick booth. People had not heard of Hardwick outside of this local community until recently,” he said. “They are all now talking about it in the industry and that’s a recognition of every single one of you.”
Hardwick is set to release its first new collection in decades in September, and has announced select pieces of that collection will be available in local retailers such as Bruce Baird & Yacoubian Tailors in Chattanooga as well as Town Squire and Johnson’s in the Cleveland area.
Jones addressed the employees, noting “there is a lot more here since last time” with 70 new employees having been added over the past year.
He was wearing one of the new blazers to be offered by the company.
“When I go around and I show this, I am so proud of what we are making,” Jones said. “I don’t know if you realize it, but what we’ve been making and what we’re going to make is something that’s going to make Cleveland proud. That’s our intention.”
Jones said he believes the company “can do it.”
“I am positive we can make this transition from what we were doing to what we have to do to survive,” he said. “I am very proud to be part of it.”
Cleveland Mayor Tom Rowland joked he had gotten there early to bake the cake for the occasion, then pulled his blazer back to reveal a “Hardwick” label.
“I try to wear a Hardwick suit wherever I go,” Rowland said. “When I travel around and tell about products made in Cleveland — products we’re really proud of — Hardwick is right on top of the list.”
After the words were spoken and the cake eaten, Jones was joined by Rowland and the Hardwick management team to plant a tree marking the special occasion.
Jones is no stranger to planting trees, having authored Cleveland’s tree ordinance and helping to create the city’s Shade Tree Board.
Jones said he selected a red oak because the characteristics of that species are similar to that of the company he rescued from bankruptcy last year.
“Red oaks grow fast and are resilient to tough times. The tree will be here many years from now — just like Hardwick Clothes,” Jones said. “As I reminded everyone at our last anniversary, this company has survived two major fires, two World Wars, the Great Depression, leisure suits, NAFTA and watching China manufacture our Olympic teams’ blazers. Now, we are making a comeback.”
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