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Lidd & Cordray to close doors in Charles City after 96 years

Lidd & Cordray to close doors in Charles City after 96 years
Lidd and Cordray, a Charles City clothing store for 96 years, will be closing as fourth-generation owner Mike Lidd announced his retirement Sunday, April 7. Press photo by Bob Steenson
By Bob Steenson,

Michael Lidd, owner of Lidd & Cordray Ltd., said Sunday that he will close his family’s 130-year-old Charles City menswear store and retire after more than 41 years in the retail profession.

“Unfortunately, I’m the fourth and final generation,” he told the Press.

The business will be closed after the entire inventory is sold, including during a special sale this week, and the building will be available for sale, he said.

Lidd & Cordray to close doors in Charles City after 96 years
Lidd and Cordray owner Mike Lidd holds up a photo of the business’s original owners, his great grandfather John Lidd, center, and his brother James Lidd, right. Lidd announced his retirement Sunday, closing the clothing store after 130 years in business, 96 of those in Charles City. Press file photo by Andrew Larson

Lidd & Cordray’s began in 1889 in Audubon.

“Back then, it was a tailor shop where people came in and clothes were made to measure,” Lidd said in a press announcement. “In 1906, with a move to Shenandoah, we became more of a retail store.

“In 1923, my great-grandfather was staying in Waverly with relatives and the plan was to go to St. Cloud to open a store there. He got as far as Charles City and we’ve been in this same location since 1923.”

Lidd grew up in the business.

“I’d come down to the store before school to clean and fill in stock,” he said. “I had a twin brother, so I was lucky that we divided those chores.”

After high school, he earned a bachelor’s degree in finance from the University of Iowa and moved to Minneapolis to become a buyer for a department store chain that also owned Black’s in Waterloo.

Five years later, Lidd returned to Charles City to buy the store from his father and uncle.

“It was an opportunity that was too good to pass up,” he said.

The store’s retirement sale opens to the public on Thursday. Lidd & Cordray, 204 N. Main St., will be open 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday and Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday during the sale.

It will return to normal business hours after the four-day sale, until the remaining inventory is sold.

Lidd said the changing face of small-town retail has presented challenges as customers are more mobile, so they often migrate to larger retail centers and tend to do more shopping online.

“When I was growing up, there were four men’s stores in Charles City. There were three in 1983 when I came back. Today, we’re the only one and the difficulty is that people don’t browse as much. We’ve become more of destination store,” Lidd said.

He added with a laugh, “My dad used to say, ‘We’d go broke if we waited for men to come in.’”

It was the acknowledgement that women were driving many purchasing decisions that prompted him to add women’s sportswear to his offerings in 2001.

Lidd attributes the store’s long-running success to its commitment to offer quality goods at fair prices and deliver stellar customer service.

Lidd told the Press that he will miss the daily interaction with people the most.

“Most people are pretty friendly in town,” he said. “Customers are. I’ll miss that.”

Lidd said he was looking forward to retirement, but acknowledged that “it’s a bittersweet time, you know, to be closing down a 130-year-old family business.”

Lidd is a former long-distance runner who completed seven marathons and 12 half-marathons after running his first 26.2-mile race at the age of 48.

After a knee injury in recent years, he’s taken to bicycling and made a long-distance trek with a friend through the mountains outside Yellowstone National Park last year.

“I miss running but I love biking. I’ll definitely be getting some ‘saddle time’ after the sale and in the future,” Lidd said.

He and his wife, Peggy, are also looking forward to spending time with their daughter, son-in-law and grandson who live in Minneapolis, and daughter who lives in Duluth.

“Somebody that retired in town a couple of years ago told me that when it’s time to retire you’ll know it. And it’s time,” Lidd said. “Forty-one years in retail is nice stretch.

“I definitely appreciate the opportunity I’ve had,” he said. “I’m just real grateful for having a rewarding retail career and thankful for all the people in Charles City and the surrounding area for their support.”