William A. Allen pictured on far right, circa 1885. The Allen family continues to curate their legacy in the retail business.
AllensUniforms.com is owned and operated by William A. Allen Co., Inc. Our store motto, "Quality and Service ...always" was drafted in 1910 by my great-grandfather, William A. Allen. William was born June 2, 1866, a year after Abraham Lincoln was assasinated. He started as a stock-boy in the 1870's. His store in Marlboro, Massachusetts was billed as the largest Cloak Store between Boston and Worcester. I imagine when he opened lots of people were still riding around in horse and buggy. He was a model citizen, adored by many in town and died in 1936. My grand father, John Allen took over and expanded into Framingham and Hudson. After WW II my father William Allen, gaduated from Harvard in May and got married in August of 1950. He was working at Filene's in Boston, making $25 a week as an assiatant to the glove buyer when my grandfather talked my Dad into buying a store and building on the Main St of Leominster, Mass for $190,000. His inlaws were furious at my grandfather and rightfully so. How in 1950 does a 26 year old kid making $25 a week, take on $190,000 in debt and pull it off? Well, fortunately the store did extremely well and on the birth of my brother John in 1957, my father and grandfather were cutting another deal on a store on the Main St of Fitchburg, Mass. When my father announced that my new brother John had arrived, my grandfather said, "It must be a sign. You should buy the store!". So, we were up to 5 stores but the glory days of being a Main Street merchant were drawing to a close.
The 70's recession was brutal to the New England Main Street. Malls were opening and factories were closing. We were lucky to hang onto the Leominster store. I graduated from college in 1977 and at the request of my mother, I came in, as she said, "to help my father liquidate the business". They had sold their nice house and we were all living in a duplex. The store financials on paper were terrible. My father and I traveled to NYC in the hopes of finding resources that would work with us. We were lucky. We ran into Leo Lipschutz, who as a youth had escaped the Nazi concentration camps and come to America. Somehow Leo knew he could trust my father and he became a principal supplier for us. Things did not turn around quickly, at all. I watched my father's profits from the sale of the house slowly go into the business with no positive results. In the Fall of 1979, my father was down to his last $5000, and suddenly things started to get better. We just got lucky. Digital Equipment was ushering in the computer era just down the road in Maynard. The store took off.
A horse-drawn carriage parading some of the William A. Allen Co. workers from the Marlboro store.
We have always been blessed to have a wonderful staff. Many of the employees I started with, worked at Allen's for 30-45 years. Yoli and Marion were both working part time well into their 80's. Shirley has somehow managed to stay with me for 30 years and Deb and Pam just passed the 20 year milestone. In 2002, I was at my son's middle school graduation when I ran into a woman, Miss Dumont, I knew had worked at Allen's in Marlboro. It turned out my great grandfather had given her her first job over 75 years earlier during the Great Depression. The emotion she shared with me about my great grandfather made a huge impression on me. My great grandfather had also made a huge impression on my father when he was a youngster, as well. Suddenly, I started to connect the dots to see that the way my great grandfather had treated people had been passed down to my father and from my father to me. I hope 75 years from now, a young clerk that I gave an opportunity to, has nice things to say about me.
One of the first staff photos taken of the Howe and Stetson / William A. Allen Co. team, circa 1880's. Note 39 star flag in background
Today, the staff at Allen's takes our mission seriously, which is to provide the best quality and service, and be the best at it!
The Team Today:
The store is still going strong on the Main St of Leominster. Our sales are much stronger online than in store as we adjust to the new world of retailing in the post pandemic era of 2020. We are fortunate to have such a talented group of people working here. Our guiding light on the web has been Matt S. of Holyoke, MA. Matt went to MIT and works with a talented staff here, that mostly could not afford college . Yet Matt has given us all the confidence to build much of this website ourselves. Julie from Leominster is the web mechanic/graphic artist for the site. She sets up all the items and group order pages. I am totally amazed at what she has taught herself over the past 3 years. Diann operates out of the Worcester store and handles all the Group Inquiries. Her specialty is customer service. Deena handles the embroidery and digitization for the hospital orders. She taught herself everything, too. Her assistant. Kalah is just as artistic and together they make an incredible team. Deena's mother, Carol handles all the school and team embroidery. When the phone rings, it's usually Colleen who answers it. She handles the customer service and shipping on individual orders.
"There is no limit to what you can accomplish if you don't care who gets credit." (Ralph Waldo Emerson). I hope I have not forgotten anyone!
My father just started working his 70th year at Allen's. Currently, he and my mother are isolating in their house because of the cornavirus. So, he doesn't get to sign the checks anymore. I just finished my 43rd year at Allen's. My brother Gus is not far behind in years here. One of my sons lives in Brooklyn, NY and just informed me that the EMT's are busier now than they were during 9/11. In early March, we have had several people start working from home. Plus, everyone is now working as far apart from each other as possible. Our goal is to keep the staff healthy and your orders going out. We feel it's the least we can do to support the medical community in these difficult times.
Be safe...be well,
March 29, 2020