By Carmen M. Woodson-Wray, Gary Crusader
At the age of 15 Rozelle Hammonds began working at a men’s clothing store in the midtown section of Gary called Esquire Men’s Store as a stock boy and window washer. Little did he know that after 70 years he would become the owner of the store and now ready to hang up everything in stock and retire.
Jack Zimmer and Leroy Ginsburg originally owned Esquire Men’s Store. They sold various name brand men’s clothing similar to items sold on Michigan Avenue in Chicago.
Hammonds said he was 35 years old when he took over the business after the passing of Zimmer and Ginsburg. He said they made him a partner before they died and he eventually bought their interests in the business from their widows.
He said he remained at Esquire for so long because it was a good business. He said, “It was a top store in Gary. We carried name brand merchandise from Dobb hats to Stacy Adams shoes, Kangol and Stetson hats and all types of name brand suits. Most men in Gary came to Esquire to buy clothing because of the merchandise we carried.”
He said they have also sold to many of the legendary singing groups from around the area, as well as to many of the ministers in the city. He said, “I’ve sold to gospel groups like The Gales of Joy, The Joys of Harmony and other singing groups. Over the years I’ve probably dressed over 2,000 people.”
Hammonds is also the former pastor of Saints Home Church of God In Christ, where he pastored for 25 years. His son Marcus is now the pastor of the church and he is Pastor Emeritus.
Now that he is retiring at the age of 84, Hammonds said he plans to go to the YWCA more to take exercise classes and get in the pool. He said after 70 years of being in the business, he certainly will miss it.