After 33 years as owners of Freidman’s Clothing, Bruce and Janie Bitterman have put the business and building up for sale, saying they are both ready to ‘transition’ into retirement and spend more time with family.
ALBANY, Ga. -- For more than 33 years, Bruce and Janie Bitterman have been greeting Friedman's Clothing customers by name as their loyal base entered their store on Westover Boulevard.
That's about to change.
The Bittermans have put the high-end clothier up for sale, stressing that the move is not a dire business matter, but rather the couple's "transition into retirement."
"Most people sell or close a business when things are bad; we want to do it when things are good," Janie Bitterman said Friday as the store prepared for a stock liquidation sale next week.
"To borrow an old baseball adage, we're going out at the top of our game," Bruce Bitterman said. "We have three grandchildren, ages one, two and three, in Dallas and Atlanta and we'd like to see more of them. That is a major factor in our decision."
So the Bittermans have placed their business and and building up for sale and are looking to liquidate as much of a $1 million dollar inventory as they can prior to the transition.
"When you do something for 40 years you always have some doubts in the end ... not in this case," Bruce said. "We've had several offers to sell before, but this time we chose to put the business up for sale. We are talking with a couple of potential buyers now and we are confident it will sell quickly."
"We want to still be able to get around and do things," she said of the couple, both 64, "because you never know what tomorrow will bring."
Bruce said one of the most difficult aspects of making the decision is what will happen to the shop's six employees, four of whom have been with the Bittermans for more than 20 years. He is hoping the new owners will retain those loyal staffers.
Another factor which made the decision bittersweet is the couple's loyal customer base, which has been built over decades.
"Without a doubt we will miss the relationships established over the years," Bruce said. "They are like family to us. We grew along with our customers. We'd fit the fathers, then fit the children then fit the grandchildren. We became a family."
"I don't want to think about that part of it," Janie said, shaking her head. "I'll start crying."
But times change, and the Bittermans and Friedman's Clothing are no exception to the rule.
"We've dedicated the last 40 years building this business, now we are going to do what we want to do," Bruce said. "It was always difficult to do volunteer work because there was never enough time. We're going to stay here in Albany, it's our home, but I'd like to do some work with the Chamber and play more golf."
"I really have mixed emotions right now, it's really bittersweet for us. Still, once it's over I think everything will be OK."
"I want to travel and visit the grandchildren and our daughters," Janie said. "I just want to spend more time with the entire family."
Friedman's will be closed Monday and Tuesday as the staff marks down stock, then hold their liquidation sale on Wednesday through Sunday.
"This was a serious decision for us," Bruce said. "But I can't say it was difficult. We had always anticipated retirement, we just didn't know when we'd get there. Well, now is that time."