Four companies rise from S&K ashes

By Rachel DePompa - bio | email
Posted by Terry Alexander - email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) – S&K Menswear went bankrupt and closed last year, but the company's spirit lives on. Four, new, home-grown companies have risen from the ashes. These four companies were created by five different former S&K employees. They took what was working when S&K folded and turned their job losses into an opportunity.

"It's a little more exciting and a little scarier too. Spending your own money at this point, but it's exciting to grow something and salvage something out of such a great company," said Bert Hardy, a former CFO for S&K.

Hardy, Kevin Ferguson and Brandon Atkinson created Direct Menswear. They sell suits, sports coats, ties, slacks all on-line. They sell the same styles and brands you could get at an S&K store.

"With a lot less overhead we need a lot less profit off of the product to stay in business. So, we're able to pass those savings on to the customers," said Ferguson.

They even recently designed their own line of suits. Direct Menswear formed last August and in just 8 months now serves hundreds of customers, not just in Richmond, but around the country.

"We'd love to make this our full time jobs and have this be another strong viable business in Richmond," said Ferguson.

S&K may now be gone, but its ties to this city are still around; offering up new business and new hope.

"Most jobs come from small business. It's just very gratifying to build something and see it grow. And it's yours," Hardy said.

When S&K folded for good Scott Ilnicky was out of a job for the first time in 20 years.

"When you think, about a thousand people from Circuit City that have skill sets. They're looking for their job now too. What couldn't be a worse time to jump in and say how about me," Scott said.

They didn't want to move or take their kids out of school. His wife Helen worried she should get a job, but she hadn't worked outside the home in 16 years.

"I was pretty scared when we found out that and I'd been out of work so long I feel like my skill set eroded to what can I do," she said.

Helen now handles the behind the scenes of a new Richmond company. Scott runs the sales. Welcome to Haberdasher Corporate Apparel. Scott and Helen have found a niche. They work from home, helping local businesses order uniforms for employees.

"We order the uniforms, we get them in here we sort them we count them, take them to the decorator," Helen explained.

They sell polo's, slacks, hats and chef jackets. They help Richmond Centerstage outfit the ushers. They have more than 75 local clients.

"We help them determine. You know here's the best fit. The best mix of garments for your budget. For what your people do," said Scott.

Scott took his 20 years experience and list of contacts and made it a new career. And he says there's room in Richmond for many more good ideas.

"The big guy sure he's gone but 50 or 100 new companies might start out of circuit city, and those are all prospects for whatever services you might want to offer," Scott said.

Helen added, "Don't be afraid. I sort of felt like what do we have to lose."

There are two more companies created by S&K alums.

CMO Retail Solutions was formed by Bryan Kipp. The firm is a marketing consultancy with a focus on strategic planning and digital communication. Robot dog Web Development and Design was formed by Brandon Atkinson.

Copyright 2010 WWBT NBC12. All rights reserved.