After nearly a half-century operating Jim's Clothing and Slack Shack, owner Jim Hunt was considering retirement, but the outcry from loyal customers — as well as his own industrious nature — led to a "compromise."
Though Jim's Clothing and Slack Shack at 1507 E. Walnut Ave. will close Dec. 4, Jim's Clothing will reopen at a new, smaller location at 708 S. Glenwood Ave. in early March 2022, he said. The plan is to be open four days a week, Monday-Thursday, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
"You would not believe the number of people who (implored us) not to retire, and they think it's wonderful (we're) not quitting," he said. "The best part of being here 50 years is you have these (loyal) customers."
"Our customers are not just customers, (but) friends, people we've known for years, and we enjoy the relationships we have with them," he said. "I feel I've never worked a day, (because) it's a pleasure to open the door every day and greet our customers."
Hunt, 78, and his wife, Eva, have "been at this for" almost a half-century, and "this operation is tough for my wife and I to run at our age," he said. "It's impossible to find help today — every business in town has a 'Help Wanted' sign up — and since" the COVID-19 pandemic took hold in March 2020, "I've been here every day."
"Our business is great — this year has been a good year for us thanks to our customer base, and we're appreciative of that — but we just don't have the energy to continue" working in the present manner, said Hunt. A smaller store, about a fourth the size of the current shop, with less inventory and hours is an ideal solution, and "if our health keeps up, we'd like to continue working a few more years, (as) I shudder to think about not having the store to come to every day."
Hunt was assisted in locating a new spot by the Greater Dalton Chamber of Commerce, and "I'm sure someone will be able to have a successful business (in our current building) when we're gone," he said. "We've leased this building, (which is) 4,000 square feet and one of the best locations in town."
"We'll still carry suits, sport coats, dress shirts, pants and better sportswear (from) the same brands" at the new store, he said. However, the formal wear business will be discontinued, as it's so "labor intensive."
In 1973, Hunt and his wife opened a clothing store on Dixie Road on Dalton's south side, then moved to the Walnut Avenue location in 1985. Hunt was raised in this business, as he started working at a Summerville department store on Saturdays when he was 14, and he returned to that store to run it at age 25.
Like her husband, Eva is eager for a little break from work, although it'll certainly be an adjustment, she said with a chuckle. "It'll either be boring or fun."
"We're looking forward to a new phase," Jim said. "We'll enjoy a little time for (ourselves)."