Outlet closing a loss for Garland

No one likes to see a business close. That’s particularly true of businesses in the heart of a municipality’s downtown and perhaps even truer still when that municipality is small and, thus, less able to afford the impact the shuttering will inevitably bring.

Such is the case in Garland, where the decades-old, and extremely popular, Brooks Brothers Factory Outlet closed its doors Tuesday, according to the town’s mayor, Winifred Murphy.

In a Facebook post and in an email to The Independent, Murphy acknowledged the closing and the sorrow she felt at seeing one of the town’s mainstay businesses end its long run in the small Sampson town.

It is, as Murphy said, a tremendous loss to the town.

The outlet, which has been open in Garland’s downtown for decades, has seen enormous support through the years. People from across North Carolina and beyond have found their way to the town in search of everything from Brooks Brothers shirts and jackets to ties, all at a discounted price.

Attorneys and ministers, business men and politicians have talked for years about their trek to Garland to get a good buy. And that has meant a lot to the town economically. Those who came usually spent money at the outlet, but they often stopped for gas and something to eat as well, pumping even more money into the municipality’s coffers. And it helped … a lot.

While we don’t know the exact reason the Garland store closed, it is easy to assume the outlet has fallen prey to the same culprit that is haunting a lot of box stores across the country — more online shopping and less in-store buying. And a small outlet store like Brooks Brothers could ill afford to lose the array of customers it has boasted for decades.

It is our hope that the shuttering of the outlet store isn’t the sign of worse news to come for Garland, home to the Garland Shirt Factory, which employs over 200 people and produces Brooks Brothers’ classic Oxford shirt.

Right now the factory continues to produce those shirts, and area residents still have jobs, but the fact that the Sampson industry is the only domestic Brooks Brothers factory operating at a loss doesn’t bode well for its future. However, loyal company executives have insisted that they aren’t pulling up roots here yet, a fact we, and Garland town officials, are most grateful for.

“We keep saying every year this is the year we aren’t going to lose money, so that’s the reason to keep trying to improve. But until the day I can’t afford it, we won’t close it,” Claudio Del Vecchio, chief operating officer for Brooks Brothers, was quoted as saying in a New York Times article.

Brooks Brothers, which has been a part of Garland for over five decades, has been good to the small town and, thus, Sampson County. It is evident in the years they have remained a part of the community when many other factories across the U.S. picked up and left, most heading overseas for production.

Del Vecchio has remained steadfast in his support of the Garland plant. He realizes the devastation a closing would be to a town Garland’s size and, we have to believe, he has an affection for the town and its people. We are thankful to him for remaining so true to this community and for doing everything humanly possible to keep the industry open.

So as tragic as it is to see the outlet close its doors, we are thankful the larger of the two Brooks Brothers facilities in Garland remains.

Like Murphy, we hope the town board can find ways to pull together and work for the betterment of its citizens and Garland, making the necessary improvements needed to make Garland a viable place to live and work and, hopefully, a place where Brooks Brothers will be able to thrive and, thus, stay.