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High-end clothing store will wait until spring to open


Hottest retail part of town? Check. A plan to draw shoppers with plenty of money to spend? Check. Ready for the 2004 holiday season? Uh, no.

The timing hasn’t worked out as planned, but the owners of Midwest Clothiers say everything else is in place for the opening of the seventh store in their group. Sarto (Italian for “tailor”), originally targeted for an October debut, is now scheduled to open next March at the West Glen retail and residential development on George M. Mills Civic Parkway in West Des Moines.

In 2002, Dave Lemons and Tim Sitzman completed their purchase of Midwest Clothiers from Wayne Graham. It includes six stores: Badowers, Mr. B, K. Michelle and Reichardt’s Clothing in Des Moines, Bremers in Iowa City and John Huber Clothiers in Ames. However, “we always had in mind opening another store,” said Lemons, president of the company.

They’ll achieve that goal at a prime location just off Interstate 35 on the route to Jordan Creek Town Center and its booming surroundings. “We felt really strongly about that end of town,” Lemons said. “That area is the future of Des Moines shopping.”

Sarto will occupy a building designed with a contemporary look by architect D. Bryan Shiffler of Shiffler Associates Architects. About two-thirds of its 4,000-square-foot interior will be devoted to upscale men’s clothes, the rest to women’s clothes – including a “store within a store” featuring women’s shoes.

Along with the new Josephs Jewelers store being finished at West Glen, Sarto is seen as a unique, high-end retailer that can persuade people to stop somewhere other than the big mall to find what they want. Some real estate insiders are questioning the soaring prices being paid for land in the vicinity of Jordan Creek, but Lemons said Midwest Clothiers already has had a chance to resell its two-thirds acre Sarto site for a sizable profit, and he’s confident the trend will continue.

Lemons and Sitzman also are aware that “not many people are dying to get into our business” as owners of small specialty clothing stores. “But we didn’t get in this business to shrink up and go away,” Lemons said. “There’s a huge amount of wealth in Des Moines and a huge base of pretty conservative people who dress up. We still feel there’s lots of opportunity.”

Each of the Midwest Clothiers stores appeals to a specific clientele. Sarto will emphasize a European look and carry items not found in other Iowa stores, and is intended to draw “a certain segment of the public who expect a level of service they don’t get at a mall,” Lemons said.

Lemons, 40, and Sitzmann, 50, met as Mr. B employees. Sitzmann, who owned an Ankeny clothing store for 14 years, went to work at Mr. B in 1993; Lemons had been with Graham for five years already.

“Wayne had a vision of the industry changing,” Sitzmann said. “He knew that a single proprietor would have a difficult time. Putting stores together, eliminating multiple bookkeepers and running out of one distribution center, that was the future of the industry.”

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