CLEVELAND, Tenn., June 18, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- America's oldest maker of tailor-made clothing has a new lease on life, thanks to the man who's been called "the pioneer of payday lending."
Cleveland, TN, entrepreneur Allan Jones acquired 134-year-old Hardwick Clothes earlier this week and vowed to pump new energy into the once-famous company that had recently fallen into bankruptcy.
An iconic Cleveland business since 1880
C.L. Hardwick founded two Cleveland, TN, businesses in the 19th century: Hardwick Stoves in the 1870s and Hardwick Clothes in 1880. Hardwick put his two sons in control of the businesses: George L. Hardwick ran the clothing company, while Joseph H. Hardwick ran Hardwick Stove.
Maytag acquired Hardwick Stove in 1981. Hardwick Clothes remained in the family, owned by approximately 70 Hardwick heirs, until the Jones acquisition. The clothing company once boasted 900 employees; its current workforce numbers approximately 225.
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," Jones said.
Jones noted that at one time, Hardwick was renowned for having the best blazer in the world. He intends to help the blazer regain its prominence by using better materials and buttons.
Jones paid $1.9 million for the company's assets through Jones CapitalCorp LLC, but acknowledged it's going to take much more than that to turn the company around. He has conducted a national search for a new chief executive officer for the company, and intends to make an announcement soon.
Cleveland entrepreneur a legendary success in consumer lending
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.
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, retaining the company's name and 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.
Jones founded Check Into Cash in 1993, and the company grew to include 1,300 stores nationwide. His prominent role in the development of the payday lending industry brought Jones 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 Jones the "granddaddy" of the payday industry. In 2005, he was on BusinessTN magazine's "Power 100" list, and has appeared on the list consistently with the nickname "The King of Cash."
Although Jones is known as the pioneer of payday lending, his companies offer a variety of products in the micro-lending field – what Jones describes as "small loans for short periods of time."
A promising future for Hardwick Clothes
Thomas H. Hopper, the chairman and president of Hardwick Clothes, said he would remain with the company as Jones takes the reins.
"Allan Jones brings real enthusiasm and excitement, and it's just what Hardwick needed," said Hopper. "We can now move forward as an even stronger company and regain our national prominence. Our employees are excited about the future."
SOURCE Check Into Cash