Business

It was one of NC's best-kept shopping secrets. Now, sadly, it is no more.

The Brooks Brothers factory outlet store in Garland brought folks from out of state and all around the state to the small town.
The Brooks Brothers factory outlet store in Garland brought folks from out of state and all around the state to the small town.

One of North Carolina’s biggest shopping secrets is coming to an end.

The Brooks Brothers factory clearance store in Garland — where you could buy an American-made silk tie for as little as $10 — is closing its doors, according to Winifred Hill Murphy, the mayor of Garland, who posted the news on the town's Facebook page.

Brooks Brothers confirmed the news in an email Tuesday evening, saying in a statement: "We are closing our small clearance store as we believe our customers are better served by our regular Brooks Brothers Factory Stores which are able to offer a broader assortment of products at exceptional value. Our shirt factory is not impacted by this decision."

The store is an offshoot of Garland’s biggest employer, the Brooks Brothers Shirt Factory. Garland, about 80 miles southeast of Raleigh, is home to one of only three Brooks Brothers factories in the U.S. The others are in Haverhill, Mass., and Long Island City, New York.

In a town of a little more than 600 people, around 250 of them work in the Garland factory, Murphy said. Workers there earn roughly $10 to $14 an hour and produce as many as 5,500 shirts a week, according to a recent article by the magazine Business NC. It's the only U.S. factory making the classic button-down Oxford shirts.

Brooks Brothers has owned the plant since 1982. Oxford shirts made there can retail for $140.

The deals at the store were legendary — a News & Observer story in 2006 noted that a shirt could go for $15, a wool jacket for $39, three khaki pants for $10 — but Brooks Brothers never advertised the outlet's existence.

“It is sad. It really is,” said Matthew Register, owner of Southern Smoke BBQ in Garland. “They have been such an amazing asset to our town, bringing people in from all of the state or other states, who would make detours or Saturday road trips to Garland.”

Register — who only owns Brooks Brothers ties — said visitors to the store were a huge economic boost to the town. Visitors would often make their way to other businesses in Garland, including Register's barbeque restaurant, which he says is only a hedgerow away from the store.

“It is going to have a financial impact on our local businesses,” he said. But “it is one of those things where … we can’t have hard feelings. We don't want them to close — but I am thankful for the years they spent here and thankful for the jobs they have kept around all these years.”

Murphy, the mayor, said in an interview Tuesday that she is worried the closing of the store might portend the demise of the factory as well.

The factory “has had some early retirements recently in the past month,” she said, adding that she hasn’t spoken to anyone at Brooks Brothers. “We are concerned.”

Brooks Brothers CEO Claudio Del Vecchio, who bought the company in 2001, told the New York Times earlier this month that the Garland factory was the only domestic plant that operates at a loss.

“Part of the Brooks Brothers institution are its factories and what it means from a social standpoint to put things together,” Del Vecchio told the Times. “Not every consumer can afford to buy ‘Made in America.’ But we have a brand that can justify that cost, and there are enough customers who understand this.”

But despite the fact the factory is operating at a loss, Del Vecchio told the Times he doesn't want to close it, saying he knows doing so would erase the livelihoods of half the town.

“Many of the decisions we make are with that in mind as well,” he said. “We keep saying every year this is the year we aren’t going to lose money, so that’s the reason to keep trying to improve. But until the day I can’t afford it, we won’t close it.”

Zachery Eanes: 919-419-6684
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