Esser's Clothing...A cornerstone business for seventy-three years

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Esser’s Clothing and Connie's Apparel carries a full line of brand name, high-quality men's and women's clothing, shoes and accessories. From left are Hedda Wachendorf and owner Matt Esser. (Press photo by Caroline Rosacker)

By Caroline Rosacker

Small town businesses are the cornerstone of a successful community. Esser's Clothing Store, located at  502 S. River Park Drive in Guttenberg, has been in the clothing business for the past 73 years. Proprietor Matt Esser purchased the business from his father in 1969. 

Esser's Clothing and Connie's Apparel

Esser's Clothing, and its companion store — Connie's Apparel — carries a full line of brand name, high-quality men's and women's clothing, shoes and accessories. 

Their wide variety is know throughout the area. Esser commented, "Where else can you get a pair of bib overalls and a brand name men's suit under the same roof? People expect us to have a little bit of everything." 

Helpful staff

Esser and his friendly, helpful staff comprised of Hedda Wachendorf, Joni Talsma, Cori Zerbe and Gertie Meyer are ready to assist you with your shopping needs.  Esser noted, "People are always surprised when they come in to purchase a pair of shoes, and we measure their foot. They say that doesn't happen very often. Most people don't realize how much their feet can change over the years. I find many people that walk in here are wearing the wrong shoe size and fit." 

Esser's Shoes

Esser carries a large selection of men's and women's footwear including work, snow and dress boots, casual, comfort, lounge wear and athletic shoes. Inserts and arch supports are also available to increase the comfort of your purchase. Children's and young adult sizes begin at infant through teen. The shoe department carries soccer and football cleats and basketball shoes. Esser's has outerwear and accessories for spring, summer, fall and winter for both men and women. Esser told The Press, "New clothing lines we are adding are  Under Armour shoes and clothing and Calvin Klein jeans for women and men. I thought I would sell more of the Calvin Klein brand to men than women, but the women are buying them up pretty fast because they fit so well." 

The clothier is adding men's Van Heusen dress and casual shirts for spring. For the women, brand names Ruby Rd., Creations and Variations will be added to the collection. The flowing, colorful designs are complementary to all figure types. Esser commented, "Some of these brands are new to the store and are what the industry refers to as resort wear." 

"Nike will no longer sell to family shoe and apparel stores, so I will be slowly fading out my product line and replacing it with the Under Armour brand," he said.

Competitive pricing

Shopping locally can save you time and money. "If you find a pair of brand name shoes or clothing online or on Amazon, I will sell you the same item at a lesser cost. You can try it on for a proper fit and avoid the hassle of returning the item. I frequently check Amazon and price my merchandise lower to offer my customers a better deal," he explained. 

Screen printing is also available at Esser's. He shared, "I carry T-shirts and sweatshirts in every color they make. We can personalize clothing for your family, business or city and school sports teams. We are able to do hand lettering and transfer photos also." 

The wedding and prom season is just around the corner so make Esser's your formal wear headquarters. "If you book a wedding tuxedo rental in the first three months of the year my suppliers offer discounts," he noted.

Clothing suppliers

Esser belongs to the Northwest Buyers group out of Minneapolis. "We meet twice a year in Saint Paul for a winter and spring buying session. I also belong to the Northwest Shoe Travelers. They meet in Minneapolis twice a year. All the major shoe companies are represented at that show." He continued, "Once a year we attend the Surf Expose in Orlando to purchase swimwear and resort apparel. We travel to Las Vegas yearly for the National Apparel Show." 

Customers come first

"Business in general has been good. When you have been in my line of work you take the good with the bad. You have to have the right mix of merchandise. Some years we do and some years we don't. When we don't we have a lot of sales," he laughed. 

"We have many tried and true customers. They have been shopping here for 50-plus years. We have people that come from over a hundred miles to shop here. Many of them like the service of a small town and comment they can find things in here that they can't find in a larger city because they are sold out," said Esser. 

When asked about any future retirement plans, Esser replied, "As long as I stay in good health I will be in business. When you are 76 years old you go from year to year. A fair percentage of our business is from tourism, but I try to gear my inventory for the locals. The tourists are bonus dollars. We have people come in from other towns that say, 'Our town used to have a store just like this, but it is gone now and we really miss it.'"


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