America’s oldest tailor-made clothing maker now has a new lease on life thanks to the man who has been called the pioneer of payday lending.
Cleveland, Tn., entrepreneur Allan Jones acquired the 134-year-old Hardwick Clothes earlier this week and vowed to pump new energy into the once famous company that had fallen into bankruptcy.
Cleveland businessman C.L. Hardwick founded two companies - Hardwick Stove in the 1870s and Hardwick Clothes in 1880. He put his two sons in control of the businesses. Son George L. Hardwick ran the clothing company, while son Joseph H. Hardwick ran Hardwick Stove.
Maytag acquired Hardwick Stove in 1981, although Hardwick Clothes was owned by approximately 70 family members until the Jones acquisition.
Hardwick once had 900 employees at the height of its national prominence, although the current number is around 225.
Mr. Jones was attracted to Hardwick, he said, because it was the oldest business of its kind in America.
“I am convinced the pendulum is swinging back to ‘Made in America,’ after the Men’s Wearhouse acquisition of Joseph Abboud – one of America’s traditional suitmakers,” he added.
Mr. Jones noted that Hardwick was at one time famous for having the best blazer in the world. He intends to help the blazer regain its prominence by using better materials and buttons.
Mr. Jones paid $1.9 million for the company’s assets through Jones CapitalCorp LLC but acknowledges it is going to take much more than that to turn the company around. He has been on a national search for a new chief executive officer for the company and will make an announcement soon.
Mr. Jones is best known as the founder, chairman and CEO of Check Into Cash, the second largest payday lender in the nation.
His career began at the age of 20 after he left college to help his father, who was suffering from emphysema, stabilize the family’s small, manually operated credit bureau located in his hometown of Cleveland.
Mr. Jones purchased the family’s credit collection agency in 1977 and grew it to the largest credit bureau databases in the state. He sold the credit reporting side of the business to Equifax (EFX) in 1988, although he retained the name and the company’s collection agency, along with most of the staff. He then built the company to be the largest in Tennessee with offices from Memphis to Atlanta. Jones sold the company in 1998.
Mr. Jones founded Check Into Cash in 1993 and the company grew to include 1,300 stores nationwide. His role in payday lending brought him into the national spotlight and he was credited for pioneering the concept of the nation’s first monolined payday lending company.
The Los Angeles Times once called Mr. Jones the “granddaddy” of the payday industry. In 2005, he was on BusinessTN magazine’s “Power 100” list and appeared on the list consistently with the nickname “The King of Cash.”
While Mr. Jones’ is known for being the pioneer of payday lending, his companies offer a variety of products in the micro-lending field – what he describes as small loans for short periods of time.
Thomas H. Hopper, the chairman and president of Hardwick Clothes, said he would remain with the company as Mr. Jones takes the reigns.
“Allan Jones brings real enthusiasm and excitement and it’s just what Hardwick needed,” said Mr. Hopper. “We can now move forward as an even stronger company and regain our national prominence. Our employees are excited about the future.”
Allan Jones, left, and son Will Jones, right, are pictured during a question and answer session with Hardwick employees