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RICK'S RANCHWEAR Retailer to close 2 stores



Published: Thu, February 13, 2003 @ 12:00 a.m.



The owner opened his first store when he was 23.

THE VINDICATOR, YOUNGSTOWN

By DON SHILLING

VINDICATOR BUSINESS EDITOR

BOARDMAN -- Rick's Ranchwear is closing after failing to turn a profit since the Sept. 11 attacks.

"Since 9/11, we've seen a drastic drop in sales," said Rick Blase, who started the Market Street store in 1978.

He first thought the drop in sales and loss of profits would be temporary. With the stock market down and the economy struggling, however, sales never came back.

"A lot of times Christmas can pull you out. This year, it never came," Blase said.

The Boardman store, along with one near Canton, will close when the inventory is sold. The stores each employ seven full-time and three part-time workers.

Also contributing to the retailer's decline has been the proliferation of chain stores in Boardman and Canton. There are too many stores taking pieces of the retail pie, he said.

With a variety of retailers selling jeans, his store could no longer compete in what had always been one of its main categories.

Starting out

He started the Boardman store at age 23 with 72 pairs of boots. He soon began selling jeans after he persuaded Levi's to allow him to become a retailer of its jeans.

After some expansions, the Boardman store now carries 5,000 pairs of boots, jeans, shirts and outerwear. He opened the Canton store in 1982.

Sales go up and down depending on whether western wear is in fashion, but it was the loss of his core customers that led him to the decision to close.

"Some times are hotter than others with fashion, but we don't count on that. It's an added bonus when western's hot," he said.

Blase sounded upbeat when talking about the store closings and his years in business.

"I'm thankful for the good years I've had," he said.

He will continue another business of his, Rick's Ranchwear On the Road. He has a crew that sells boots at horse shows and rodeos all over the country.

"We're not in dire straits," he said.

shilling@vindy.com




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