DEPEW, N.Y. — “Riverside was birthed during the 1918 pandemic,” declared Natalie Neumann, owner, Riverside Men’s Shop.
The pandemic is taking a toll on businesses of all backgrounds, including one with deep roots here in Western New York.
Riverside Men’s Shop has been a part of Buffalo's retail landscape since 1918.
But even with more than 100-years of history, the store is not immune to the ravages of the pandemic.
Fast-forward 102-years later and Neumann stands in front of racks of suits at riverside men's shop in Depew reflecting on the stores legacy.
Neumann and her husband, Jim, bought the store in 2007 from the original owners where it was located in buffalo's riverside neighborhood on Tonawanda Street,
Now it's in a plaza on Transit Road alongside the Neumann's other business, S&E jewelers.
But the long-time men's shop is taking a big hit from the pandemic.
“It’s taken a tremendous toll on us,” Neumann remarked.
Business is very slow because many of the regular customers are working from home.
“So, our judges, our doctors, our lawyers, our accountants, our bankers — all of those suit-wearing — white-collar professional men are home,” explained Neumann.
Neumann says normally during Christmas week the store is flooded with shoppers.
“It’s been very slow,” Neumann said. “I only have one salesman on the floor.”
The pandemic has caused a ‘trickle-down’ effect on the men’s store from shutdowns at some manufactures.
Neumann said that could mean a regular customer might not find their exact size.
“They want to know ‘why don’t we have a 42-short, portly in stock’, so you’re trying to maintain a level of service they were accustomed to,” Neumann explains.
But the pandemic didn't stop Paula Blandino of Eden from shopping with her daughter and son, Claire and Luke.
“This is a 'go too' for us,” said Blandino.
Blandino remembers shopping at the original Buffalo store with her parents as a young child.
“One of my memories there was - they use to have a Santa Claus in the window that I think was motorized and it was a great tradition for my family,” recalled Blandino.
“I always really like coming here — even though we don't really get things for me, but it's always a pleasant experience,” reflected Claire Blandino.
Luke Blandino said he now likes to shop for himself at the store.
“Lots of shirts, lots of ties and it's just a really good experience coming here,” replied Blandino.
One of the things that you can still buy here at Riverside is the Buffalo Collection, which traces back to the legacy of the old Kleinhans Men's' store in Buffalo.
Neumann says the Buffalo Collection is doing well, but suit buying is down by 50-percent.
“Our customers are loyal, so they’ve been buying gift certificates for the future when they do get back in the office,” responded Neumann.
Neumann is hoping by spring pandemic rules will loosen, so she can return to selling suits for wedding parties, proms, and graduations.
“How many more expenses can I cut?” questions Neumann.
This story was first reported by Eileen Buckley at WKBW in Buffalo, New York.