Tamaqua clothier business turns 95
TAMAQUA — In an era of online shopping and big-box stores, Ralph Richards is bucking the trend.
But in his corner he has the personal service his store, Charles X. Blocks, has made a tradition for 95 years, which he is continuing.
To celebrate the anniversary, a customer appreciation evening will be held from 4 to 9 p.m. Thursday. Charles X. Blocks will also be showing off its newly completed interior renovation.
“We will be kicking off the Shop Small Christmas season,” Richards said. “It’s our way of thanking our customers for a fabulous year of business, and it’s a fun way to celebrate our business’ 95th birthday this coming year.”
Charles X. Blocks is about customer service today as much as it was in 1923, when Charlie founded it, and son Ted operated from 1964 to 2010, when Richards purchased it.
“Customer service is where we literally win the game every day,” said Richards, a home care physical therapist who still practices for Lehigh Valley Hospital-Hazleton. “We try to always be competitive on price, but the experience of you walking in, someone greeting you, offering you coffee or a water, telling us what you need, measuring you, not just saying, ‘Shirts are over there, help yourself,’ It’s a personal-led experience, from the moment a gentleman, his wife or whoever comes in until they leave.”
Blocks still believes the notion people want to see and understand what they are buying.
“Sometimes today, people will go on the internet and order 15 things and they like one of them, then they have the hassle of sending 14 things back,” Richards said. “We’re educating our customers as we are putting them in whatever it is they want. Here, you can look at it, feel it, maybe see another size of it. Maybe you came in for a coat and thought it was one size, but it was another. People say, ‘I want a coat that fits. I’m used to going to the big box stores and keep trying on coats
until it fits my shoulders.’ But now the sleeves are down to here. We try to teach them did you ever think about a short? What does that mean? We’re putting them in a garment that is designed for their bodies.”
Custom ordering — something the big box stores or online buying might not offer — is a Blocks tradition Richards is continuing. This is especially important to the hard-to-fit person, he said.
“Blocks also carries a large variety of sizes, in sport coats, suits, pants and sweaters.
“Big and tall is what we do. It is a niche I think we do very well,” he said
Blocks still does tuxedos, which Richards said, “is our cornerstone.” But even that has changed.
“We are full service. That is something I insist on,” he said. “The reason is our society has becomes less formal. We even do denim weddings. People have decided to get married in barns. Shame on us if we didn’t keep up with the times. We had to go with what our demand was.”
The store also offers a tailoring service, as well as shoe repair, leather repair and zipper repair, On the rack, there are shirts for a local restaurant and a police department which have taken advantage of Blocks embroidery service.
“No matter how expensive or inexpensive, it is still tailored free — hemming sleeves, whatever — if it is purchased in our store,” Richards said. “Now, in 2017, we have added women’s seamstress service, by appointment. Our seamstress meets with them oneon-one.”
The store has also added women’s accessories and sweaters to its board of fare.
“We’re excited about our new line of ladies items, including handmade handbags, wraps, casual blazers, sweaters, scarves, jewelry and hand-milled soaps,” said Jeanette Richards, Ralph’s wife and co-owner.
“Our women’s purses and bags are by far our biggest seller for the ladies,” Ralph said. “In almost seven years, we have sold between 800 and 900 reversible, hand-sown bags made by a Fashion Institute of New York friend of ours. She never makes the same purse twice and they come in various sizes. We also have travel bags that are special ordered which we will embroider.”
The store is open 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Wednesday, 9:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. Thursday and Friday., and 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday.
The customer appreciation evening Thursday will include a little wine.
“We are partnering with the Eight Oaks Distillery, New Tripoli, for complimentary tasting of their spirits,” Richards said.
Charles X. Blocks is located at 251 W. Broad St., Tamaqua. For more information, visit www.CharlesXBlocks. com or call 570-668-1112.
Ralph Richards stands in front of his store, Charles X. Blocks, 251 W. Broad St., Tamaqua. The oldest store in Tamaqua, they are celebrating their 95th anniversary.