Last Two Essentials Clothing Stores To Close
Hanover — Upper Valley women who want a lithe Italian Nana Nucci dress or men who favor fine Baroni suits will soon have to drive to Boston or Burlington (or go online) to buy their favorite upscale clothes: Rare Essentials and its sister store, Essentials for Men, are closing their doors on July 30.
Owner Lynn Kochanek said the decision was largely influenced by the untimely death of her husband and business partner, Walter Kochanek, in December at age 66, only eight days after his own father passed away. The couple opened their first clothing store in Brattleboro in 1981, the first of what was to become a retail empire in the Twin States which at its peak had 12 stores.
“My husband’s death was huge,” Kochanek said. “He was the administrator and financial manager of our business, and for 35 years I’ve been in fabulous retail bubbles, which is sell clothes and play with beautiful women. For the past five months I’ve been dealing with everything. My goal is to put myself in a position where I can do what I want on my terms and not deal with all the administrative issues.”
Kochanek said closing out the business will enable her “to move on to the next stage of my life,” which she hinted would involve the work she loves: selecting and selling high-end designer collections. She and her husband gradually began closing the other Essentials stores in 2005 as they sought to throttle back their workload. The Hanover outlets were the last operating.
The closing of the two Essentials clothing stores represents an ongoing upheaval among Hanover’s retail businesses: Five longtime storefronts have closed, a sixth is consolidating and relocating two locations into one, and a seventh has expanded and moved around the corner.
New businesses moving into downtown locations have tended to be corporate chains — J. Crew, Starbucks and Verizon — as Hanover begins to reflect the homogenization that has swept Main Streets across America.
The Kochaneks opened Rare Essentials in 1985 and Essentials for Men in 1988 and would make several trips every year to Italy, where they visited designer showrooms and joined a “buying group” comprised of other select independent retailers in order to negotiate better terms. In women’s clothing, Rare Essentials carried such lines as Santorelli, D’Exterior, Max Mara and Fabiana Filippi, while Essentials for Men carried Jack Victor, S. Cohen, Baron and Zanetti.
A Gimos leather jacket for women can run between $900 on the low end up to $3,000, while the men’s suits range from $595 to $995. The stores are having a liquidation sale.
“Our clientele are people who love beautiful clothes,” Kochanek said, explaining that the women and men who shopped at Essentials viewed their clothes as “an investment that has high intrinsic value and staying power in one’s wardrobe.”
Despite the casual attire that now predominates in the workplace and the increasing shift to online shopping, Kochanek said, the Essentials stores in 2013 and 2014 had their two best years in sales volume.
She attributes the success of the business to the personal knowledge of the fashion sense she has gained of her clientele and the “person-to-person outreach” she maintains with them.
Kochanek said 40 percent of Essentials’ clientele do not live in the Upper Valley, and many of them first came through the stores’ doors when visiting Dartmouth College, one of its graduate schools or Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center.
John Lippman can be reached at 603-727-3219 or firstname.lastname@example.org.