In the Know: Brooks Brothers permanently closing two Sunshine State locations including one in Southwest Florida
Known as America's oldest apparel seller, Brooks Brothers has decided to permanently close at least one Southwest Florida location.
The store at Sanibel Outlets, 20350 Summerlin Road, south Fort Myers, has been designated for closure, according to the company's website, in addition to another Sunshine State one on classy Worth Avenue in Palm Beach.
Brooks Brothers has not announced a decision regarding Naples, Estero, Sarasota or Bradenton stores in the area after filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection this week and saying it was shuttering 51 of its North American spots.
Having touted that 40 of 45 U.S. presidents have worn its attire, the 202-year-old chain has about 425 stores worldwide and 4,000 employees. USA TODAY says nearly three-fourths of its workers are currently furloughed.
Only 18 of the company's 250 or so stores in the U.S. have reopened since the pandemic shuttered retail.
Brooks Brothers currently lists venues at Waterside Shops in Naples, the Mall at University Town Center in Sarasota and The Gardens Mall in Palm Beach Gardens as operating, but not Miromar Outlets in Estero and Ellenton Premium Outlets near Bradenton at least "temporarily" as of Thursday afternoon.
According to the company, other stores on the Peninsula remain closed, such as those in West Palm Beach, Vero Beach, Sunrise, Boca Raton, Daytona Beach, Jacksonville, St. Augustine and Destin.
"This is sad. I'm a Brooks Brothers wearer and fan," Naples broker Michael Rivera said of the bankruptcy. "I love them. Abraham Lincoln wore Brooks Brothers shirts. That's the sort of history this company has."
Rivera noted on Facebook how the company indicated in its filing how it planned to honor $35 million in gift cards.
"They did not try to get out of that under bankruptcy; that shows core values, integrity and intent," Rivera said. "They're one of the rare good companies that are good to their client base."
Sanibel Outlets and Miromar were among the locations last year to lose clothing retailer Gymboree Group after that chain shut down. Tenants at both malls began reopening in May after sitting idle during the early stages of the pandemic.
The latest Southwest Florida closure comes after the stunning shuttering of another local luxury giant, Nordstorm, which had been an anchor at swanky Waterside where Brooks Brothers had completed a renovation in December.
"We're a little surprised they're wanting to vacate," Von Maur CEO Jim von Maur said of Nordstrom in an In the Know column last month. "I assumed they would have been very happy in that location. I mean, it's a phenomenal location, an excellent community."
The leader of the expanding Iowa-based high-end chain told the Naples Daily News of his interest in setting up an upscale store in Southwest Florida, where von Maur family members have homes.
Founded by Henry Sands Brooks in 1818 and introducing the button-down polo shirt in 1896, Brooks Brothers later became known for its high-end men's clothing, including suits and ties.
The company made uniforms for the U.S. military during the Civil War, and pivoted in recent months to make masks for the coronavirus pandemic, according to USA TODAY.
"For more than 200 years, Brooks Brothers has remained resilient through an ever evolving fashion landscape, fluctuating economic cycles, various ownership structures and even world wars," the company said in a statement, hoping to find a buyer. “This strategy is intended to preserve the original mission of our brand since 1818: Serving customers through innovation, fine quality, personal service and exceptional value."
Based at the Naples Daily News, Columnist Phil Fernandez (email@example.com) writes In the Know as part of the USA TODAY NETWORK. It's tough to keep up with your many questions, but keep them coming, and I'll do my best. Look for Monday's column in the Naples Daily News, naplesnews.com and news-press.com. Support Democracy and subscribe to a newspaper.