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To stay in business 86 years, the Riverside Men's Shop has changed with the times.

It was the first retailer in Buffalo to be illuminated by fluorescent lights and fully air-conditioned. As dress became more casual, Riverside Men's expanded beyond suits to sell sweaters, khakis, coats and even running gear at its longtime location at Ontario and Tonawanda streets.

And Riverside Men's will change again when it reopens a store in the suburbs on the Friday after Thanksgiving.

"It's been something that we've been working on like crazy for a year and a half, since we vacated our Williamsville store," said president Timothy H. Hare.

The suburban Riverside Men's is in the Northtowns Plaza on Sheridan Drive, near Niagara Falls Boulevard.

Riverside Men's opened an Amherst store in 1987 in the Talbot's plaza on Main Street, between Union and Cayuga roads. However, the shop lost its lease in 2003 when the landlord wanted to make room for Talbot's to expand with a plus-sized store next to its regular store and Talbots Petit.

Hare chose to open the new store on the Amherst-Town of Tonawanda border because that's where the greatest concentration of customers live and the location had ample parking. Riverside Men's also has many customers in Clarence and Orchard Park.

"We have always been a destination location. We have a lot of dedicated customers who love this location and we will always be in the city," he said. "But the dynamics of the world have changed. Some customers won't go five minutes out of the way. We needed to also be a convenient location."

The Amherst store will be about a third of the size of the sprawling 12,000-square-foot Buffalo store that has room enough for couches and chairs on which patrons and their shopping companions can relax.

However, Hare could see a suburban location one day dwarfing Riverside Men's city location.

In addition to making changes to be more convenient and sell a wider array of products, Riverside Men's has to contend with national chains with more buying power and more money to spend on advertising.

"The glut of the market is national chains," Hare said. "There are very few of us independents left."

Riverside Men's is one of the few places that gives free tailoring and alterations -- no matter how long ago someone bought a suit. The store holds sales and will give customers steep discounts if it buys an overrun or shipment another retailer canceled. But Hare said Riverside Men's doesn't play pricing games.

"A lot of the national chains must think people are stupid. We know people can see through their nonsense and 70 percent off sales," he said. "If you're selling it for 70 percent off, you marked it up too much in the first place."

Samuel and Rose Ehrenreich, Hungarian immigrants, started Riverside Men's in 1918 as a general store. A few years later it began selling suits, which became its specialty. Their sons, David and Raymond, took over the business. David's son, Neil, became the third generation in the family to run Riverside Men's.

Hare was going to college to be an optometrist and dating Neil's daughter, Betsy. His future mother-in-law said the store was short handed and asked if Hare could help one or two nights a week. He loved the interaction with people and was soon working at the store all the time.

When Neil Ehrenreich retired about six years ago, the Hares bought the business.


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