The History of Lobel’s
From: The Hudson Reporter - WEST NEW YORK REPORTER - 08/29/2004
Bergenline Avenue is one of the best known commercial boulevards in Hudson County, and while it has changed over the decades, remnants of its old-time commerce can still be found. This is especially true at the corner of 59th Street and Bergenline Avenue in West New York.
Lobel’s Uniform Outfitters has been in business since 1915. Run by three generations of Lobel men, they have always prided themselves on providing the finest quality merchandise and customer service.
Lobel’s provides uniforms and gear for students from approximately 50 schools in Hudson, Bergen, and Essex counties, and they have also provided services for people in New York and other organizations that have approached them.
"It’s a family-type atmosphere, and sometimes you can see the same faces for 20 years," said David Lobel, 50, the chief CEO. "We have a good reputation. We follow the blueprint of success that was started by my grandfather, and we still run the store in an old-fashioned way where the customer comes first."
First established by Morris Lobel almost 90 years ago as a children’s department store, the business once provided clothes for boys and girls from babies to early teens. It was the biggest department store of its time on the avenue, and had a striking storefront display.
"Before, it was strictly children and baby wear up to 12 years old," said Morris’s grandson, David Lobel. "We had the whole works; it was like a big department store."
By 1955, after the store had been taken over by Morris’ son Melvin, Lobel’s began to carry school uniforms as well.
By the early 1970s, the store began to downsize, and by 1976 it started to specialize only in school uniforms. Melvin Lobel rented out the half the building with the storefront on the avenue, and continued to do business from the side street entrance on 59th.
Despite its changes to Lobel’s, the one thing that has always remained the same is their belief of old-time personal customer service, to which they have attributed the store’s continued success.
"Its old time retail that isn’t around anymore," said David Lobel. "First of all, when you go into a department store today, you don’t get individual help. Basically the old-time retail is where you are waited on by someone, which is something that really appeals to the customers."
"It’s great customer service and good leadership, but basically the customer is always right, and that was my grandfather’s way," said Caren Lobel of Atlantic Highlands, 55, who is David’s sister and helps part-time during the season. "We do a lot of donation work too since my grandfather was in business."
Now run by David, the family tradition has been kept alive and well, and has survived the ever changing face of Bergenline Avenue.
"Well from the time I was a kid, I helped out in the store," said Lobel. "I was already working summers by the time I was 13 or 14 years old, and now since 1972 I have been running the store."
Lobel has also made a few changes of his own throughout the years, and has kept up with the demand of his school clientele. The variety now offered extends to seasonal uniforms, athletics, jackets, shoe apparel, and even book bags.
"We added the shoe department five years ago, and we will be doing further renovations," said Lobel, who plans to once again have a main entrance to the store on the avenue.
For the past 28 years, people have kept coming to the side entrance because Lobel’s had kept good relations with their tenants. Renovations for the new storefront are expected to begin in 2005.
"We’re just trying to expand the business in order to be more customer-friendly, and serve the school uniform business for many years to come," said Lobel. "We want the experience to be as pleasant and enjoyable as it can be."
Lobel’s has maintained good to moderate business for the last few years, and has had a steady flow of about 8 to 10 good employees and extra help during the their busy seasons.
A wonderful place
It’s just a wonderful place, especially for me," said Perri Binetti of Bogota, 69, the assistant bookkeeper and secretary, who has worked for all three generations of Lobels for the last 45 years. "I enjoy coming to work. They never bothered me, and treated me like one of their own family. There’s no pressure, and that’s why I’ve lasted this long."
Lobel’s also has many loyal customers who wouldn’t dream about going anywhere else. Some have even developed casual friendships with the Lobel family and its staff for years.
"I’ve been coming here for 15 years," said Nancy Cosma of Fairview. "It was recommended to us by the other parents from Our Lady of Grace School, and the help is always very accommodating and patient."
Cosma, who has brought two sons through the parochial school system, speaks volumes of Lobel’s.
"I’m a difficult person to please, and no matter how overwhelmed I get, they always make my transition very pleasant," said Cosma. "When you walk through that door and they recognize you and acknowledge you, that’s worth a million dollars. After 15 years I would never go anywhere else."
It’s that time of year
This time of year is the busy season for Lobel’s. Sales start to pick up toward the end of July, and from August to part of October the store does about 80 percent of their business.
"Summer is my Christmas. It’s the busy season," said Lobel.
Another factor that separates Lobel’s from much of its competition is accessibility.
"Some of the companies are strictly mail-order," said Lobel. "In my store you can come in, try everything, get free alterations if needed, and you can be out in half an hour."