George Bush soon will have to find a new place to purchase the First Suit -- Washington haberdasher Arthur A. Adler is going out of business at the end of the summer.
The men's clothier that counted Supreme Court justices, members of Congress and the president among its customers is closing its doors after nearly 50 years of fitting the rich and powerful in conservative suits. In the end, Adler apparently fell victim to a combination of increased competition and poor business decisions, including the relocation of its downtown store.
"It's very emotional since our stores have been an important part of Washington retailing for so many years," said John B. Adler, president, owner and son of the store's late founder and namesake. "But the soft economy finally got to us."
In 1942, the company opened its first store on the corner of 15th and H streets NW. Yesterday, Adler ran a stark ad, which read "Going Out Of Business After 48 Years," in area newspapers. Adler's downtown store will close next month and its Chevy Chase location will shut down by late August after a "farewell sale" to deplete inventory.
The closings are part of a year-long downward slide for the business, which recently initiated heavy discounting, pleading in ads that cash was desperately needed.
Adler opened an F Street NW location in late 1988, only to close it early this year after business there did not materialize. He also relocated the longtime Connecticut Avenue store to L Street NW a year ago, but after business suffered there, he recently said he would close that location and continue operating in Chevy Chase.
"We took some gambles that did not work out," said Adler. "The business was not there."
That was not always the case. Over the years, when business was brisk, Adler was the site of some unexpected Washington encounters. In the 1970s, for example, Adler remembered when both Watergate Judge John J. Sirica and then-implicated Nixon aide Charles Colson showed up to shop at the same time.
The lackluster selling environment -- retail sales have declined for the past three months, the Commerce Department reported Wednesday -- wasn't the only factor that spelled the end for Arthur A. Adler. Many Washington retailers cited increased competition from more innovative national stores that took some of Adler's share of the market as a key reason for the store's demise. A decade ago, Brooks Brothers opened locations near Adler stores, followed by J.Press downtown in 1988. In addition, many department stores have expanded their men's departments.
Despite the defeat, John Adler indicated he might try to compete again. "We are keeping our options open," he said when asked if he was thinking about opening a new men's clothing store under a different name at his Chevy Chase location. "Retailing has been my life for 26 years, and anything could happen."
But not, it seems, another Arthur A. Adler. "The name will be gone from Washington's retail scene," Adler said with a sigh.