MOUNT VERNON — Bauman’s has been a fixture on First Street in Mount Vernon for 110 years. Generations of shoppers have walked through the large front door in search of the perfect suit or dress shirt.
Today, shoppers will be greeted by new owners, Olivia and Josh Randall. The couple took the store — only the fourth owners in the century the store has been open — in July from Mike Smith, who has worked at the shop for some 50 years.
The transition has been just the right fit.
Smith said he started thinking about selling the business about two years ago.
“I was getting closer to 70, but I didn’t want to be the person to close the store after 100 years in business,” he said.
Smith placed an advertisement noting that he was looking for a buyer. The Randalls saw it, met with Smith — and asked all the right questions.
“It just couldn’t have worked out any better,” said Smith, who still works part-time in the store. “Olivia hit the ground running. She and Josh are the perfect people for Bauman’s.”
The Randalls — who met at Cornell College in Mount Vernon and had moved away — could not be more excited about their venture.
They’re also grateful to have Smith’s guidance.
“The transition has been fun for us,” said Josh, noting the three worked on the transition for about two years.
“Mike has been so helpful to make this successful,” he said. “His willingness to stick around is key.”
Their shared interest in seeing the store continue also has been important.
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“For all of us, it’s about the store. How do we keep Bauman’s going for the future because we are a big part of this community,” Smith said.
“The Bauman family and another past owner, Tom Wolf, started and created an incredible business. We’ve had some good leadership over the years and the store benefited from that.
“It’s important that we do our jobs, but the store is bigger than any of us. We keep having people stop in and say, ‘I’m glad you didn’t close.’ ”
WOMEN’S WEAR ADDED
The full-service men’s clothing shop opened in 1909 and remains committed to offering the quality products and a high level of customer service that have always been the foundation of the business.
Bauman’s also sells shoes and added a women’s section — which Olivia recently expanded and moved to a dedicated space on the second floor — about eight or nine years ago.
“We do everything from wedding suits and shoes to big and tall, casual wear and work wear,” Olivia said.
“We are doing the same thing we have always done,” Josh added. “We are just always looking for ways to do it better. We have a great responsibility to serve our customers. We are a relationship-based business. We are building friendships. We are carrying on the Bauman’s tradition. We have stuck by the principles of good business and how you treat customers.”
‘GIVE US A CHANCE’
Having grown up watching his family run a 100-year-old construction business in Osage, Josh handles many of the behind-the-scenes business functions such as accounting.
He’s in the store on Fridays and Saturdays to help with busier days. Olivia is in the store daily and is working with Mike to do all the ordering. She assists with suit sales and oversees inventory and pricing.
She also is increasing the store’s social media presence. Bauman’s has four other longtime employees.
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Josh noted the store pulls in customers from Cedar Rapids, Iowa City and surrounding small towns, especially since several other menswear shops have closed.
“We have a wide variety of people who come through the store,” Olivia said. “We recently had a lot of teens shopping last minute for homecoming shirts. And it’s gifting season, so that will bring wives and mothers in.”
As the Randalls seek to continue the long-running business, they that shoppers give locally owned small retailers such as Bauman’s a chance.
“We have a strong customer base and have so many people come in, thanks to word-of-mouth or our great reputation,” Josh said. “We just hope more people give us a chance.
“We do what you can’t get at a box store. We can tailor every piece to fit our customers. When people come in here, they come back.”
At a glance
• Owners: Olivia and Josh Randall
• Company: Bauman’s
• Address: 124 First St. SW, Mount Vernon
• Phone: (319) 895-8692
• Website: baumansofmtvernon.com
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