After 86 Years, J. Press Closes Its Store in Harvard Square - NECN
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After 86 Years, J. Press Closes Its Store in Harvard Square

The iconic store was first established on the Yale campus in 1902 and then expanded to several other locations, including Harvard Square

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    NEWSLETTERS

    J. Press in Harvard Square Closing After 86 Years

    necn reporter Jonathan Choe details the end of an era, as J. Press is closing after 86 years of selling clothes in Harvard Square.

    (Published Friday, Aug. 31, 2018)

    It's the end of an era for one men's clothing boutique in Massachusetts.

    After 86 years in the red brick building at the corner of Mt. Auburn and Dunster streets in Cambridge, J. Press has closed its Harvard Square store.

    The men’s clothier has been the epitome of Ivy League style for U.S. presidents, Harvard students, and the dapper gentleman.

    It’s also part of New England pop culture and is featured in movies like “21.”

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    Store manager Stephen Demont has plenty of stories about the famous people who have come through the doors, including the time he sold underwear to a member of the Supreme Court.

    Former New Mexico governor Bill Richardson is a long-time customer. Before heading off to Yale University to teach a class this fall, he stopped in to say farewell.

    “I’m going to miss this store, this corner here," Richardson said "Can’t park. But you stay here forever. This is part of Cambridge.”

    The iconic store was first established on the Yale campus in 1902 and then expanded to several other locations, including Harvard Square.

    While the other J. Press stores across the country will remain open, Chief Merchandising Officer Robert Squillaro says the rising rents in Harvard Square just didn’t make any more financial sense.

    “We’ve been looking at a different business model, that maybe we can use less footage,” he said.

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    And then there’s the next generation of Harvard students like Andrew Meersand who are seeking comfort over style. It's a sign of the times and a drag on profits.

    “Plenty of people wear athletic wear to class," Meersand said.

    Some in this Cambridge community are now concerned losing another unique shop will take away from the area’s charm and appeal. That trend has ramped up in the past few years.

    But Denise Jillson with the Harvard Square Business Association says 70 percent of the stores in the area are still independently owned and draw plenty of foot traffic.

    “Every time somebody leaves, someone else comes in and fills that space,” Jillson said.

    Onward Holdings is the Japanese company that’s owned J. Press since 1986. Executives are hoping to find a more affordable location in Cambridge or Boston, but there are no guarantees.

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    "What's going on with rents here, it's going to be very, very difficult," Squillaro said.

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