FITCHBURG — Nearly 70 years after their father opened Shack’s Fine Clothing on Main Street, Wendy and Jill Shack said it’s sad to see the family business’s last store close, but they appreciate what they learned from him and support from their customers and the city.
“Even though it is a little melancholy for us, it has been nice going down memory lane,” said Wendy, who lives in New York and was helping at the store Thursday.
The men and women’s clothing store is expected to close on Jan. 19.
“We had a lot of loyal customers and this came as a shock to them,” Wendy said. “It was just the end of a life cycle for the business.”
It was a family decision to sell the building that housed Shack’s and Gallery Sitka, which is located next door to SBP Realty Trust in September, she said.
1951 Shack’s opened it’s doors on Main Street in Fitchburg. They will be closing their doors on January 19, 2019. Owner Jill Shack listens to her sister Wendy talks about their Father and all their experiences at the story over the years. SENTINEL & ENTERPRISE/JOHN LOVE
That agency owns several buildings along Main Street, including the one across the street where Duvarney Jewelers is.
Changes in shopping patterns has been a challenge for the Fitchburg store, Wendy said. Shack’s has had to adapt to people dressing more casually and younger customers through the type of clothes they sell.
Mostly, it was building maintenance and overhead costs that made it difficult to continue business, she said.
There are no plans at this time to open another Shack’s store, Wendy said. The city has been good to them and they wish Fitchburg all the best.
Their father Philip Shack, who died two years ago, opened the Main Street store in August 1950, the second after the flagship store in Worcester.
“It was my father’s first child and sometimes the favorite child,” Wendy said.
Both of them had their first jobs at Shack’s stores as teenagers, Jill said, and they both returned to the family business after working elsewhere. She was a preschool teacher in Worcester who began to work at the stores full time in 2000 and Wendy left her career in marketing in Boston to open Shack’s women’s department in Fitchburg in 1987.
Jill, a Worcester resident, said the business was in their blood and something they talked about around the dinner table.
They learned about the value of good customer service and how to be good business owners from their father.
Building a relationship with the customer was central at Shack’s, Jill said. It was about remembering when they came in and always greeting customers at the door.
“If you didn’t do it the Phil Shack way, you would hear about it,” she said.
Even when her father couldn’t come into the store anymore, Jill said he would want to know about how things were going.
The business traces back to before the Worcester store opened in 1928 to the beginning of the century when their grandfather, Israel, immigrated from Russia.
He sold pants out of a pushcart in Worcester before opening a brick and mortar shop, Jill said.
Shack’s Worcester store closed last year and a location in Auburn that opened in the 1970s closed about a decade ago.
Although the store is closing, store manager Kent Bourgault, who has been with Shack’s since the mid 1970s, started out in sales. His cousin suggested he come work at the store.
He later focused on buying and became the store manger, a position he’s held since the 90s.
“I have enjoyed every day and have met wonderful people,” Bourgault said. “I know what’s what I will take away.”
The lifelong Fitchburg resident has fond memories of the store, including meeting his wife, Eileen, who also worked there in the 70s.
1951 Shack’s opened it’s doors on Main Street in Fitchburg. They will be closing their doors on January 19, 2019. Owner Wendy Shack helps Dennis Grammont of Leominster find some new clothes on Thursday afternoon at the shop. Grammont came to the store in 1999 to buy some clothes for a trip to Paris and got such good help he has been coming back ever since. SENTINEL & ENTERPRISE/JOHN LOVE
On Thursday afternoon, Bourgault walked around the store with customers to look at different clothing items and make suggestions.
One customer he helped, Andrew Sarasin, had been coming to Shack’s since he was a student at the former St. Anthony School and St. Bernard’s Central Catholic High School for school uniforms. Now he was back to shop for a blazer, shirts, and ties.
“It’s really fitting since I used to come here as a kid,” said Sarasin, 25, of Fitchburg. “It’s come full circle.”
Bourgault is looking for other work opportunities once the store closes in January.
“I think the city has plenty to offer and I want to be part of that,” he said. “I wish we would stay longer, but I’ll find another way to stay in the community.”
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