Mano Swartz, a family business that has wrapped Baltimore women in mink and sable for 103 years, will close its doors this month, saying it refuses to lower its quality standards to make the price cuts necessary to survive in today's market.
In a letter to customers, company President Richard Swartz said the Towson store would sell off its entire inventory to invited guests "at a fraction of retail value" in a going-out-of-busines sale next Tuesday through Saturday.
"It is with emotions astir that I tell you that Mano Swartz will close its doors," said the letter, dated Wednesday. "Rather than sell our entire inventory through a liquidator or to a liquidator, my family wanted our customers to be able to own every one of these excellent furs at significant savings from us."
In a rare gesture for a company that is closing its doors, Mano Swartz scheduled a luncheon and news conference for Monday to announce its demise. Richard Swartz, the 33-year-old great-grandson of the founder, declined to comment on the company's plans until Monday.
Mr. Swartz's letter said the furrier survived the Great Depression, but "the current recession has been far more unkind."
"Some furriers will survive," Mr.Swartz wrote. "But survival tactics in our business focus on dramatically reducing prices. The only way to accomplish this while remaining profitable is to lower quality standards on our furs.
"Faced with these alternatives, the Swartz family opted to close."
Beside the recession, Swartz and other furriers have been plagued in recent years by a vocal movement that opposes the use of animal furs in clothing. As recently as Saturday, the Mano Swartz store at 424 York Road was the scene of a demonstration organized by the Maryland Forum for Animals.
Mano Swartz, an immigrant from Hungary, founded the business in 1889 on Lexington Street in downtown Baltimore. The store was a fixture on Lexington Street and later Howard Street for decades before moving to Towson in 1976.
The founder passed the store to his son Jimmy in 1925, 16 years before Mano Swartz died. Jimmy Swartz continued to work in the shop until his death in 1977.
His successor was his son Mano Swartz II, who retired seven years ago and passed the business to his son Richard and daughter Lora.