After nearly three decades in business, Peter-Blair’s proprietor is ready to bow out.
The high-end menswear store at 5800 Grove Ave. is in the midst of a retirement sale as owner Dick Fowlkes is getting ready to leave the business.
Fowlkes said Friday that he’s in talks with several potential buyers for the store. He declined to name the interested parties but said they’re locals.
He said he hoped to figure out who will take up the Peter-Blair banner in the next couple weeks. The retirement sale kicked off last week and is expected to continue until mid-October. Fowlkes plans to retire in early November.
“I haven’t had a Christmas in 40 years, so I said, ‘I’m going to have a Christmas this year,’” Fowlkes said of his decision to step away.
The sale is expected to include the retail business and its lease on Grove, but will not likely involve Peter-Blair Accessories’ design studio, which designs wholesale and custom neckties and bowties. That arm of the business is to be shut down, Fowlkes said.
Fowlkes owns the Peter-Blair store and co-owns Peter-Blair Accessories with sister Kate Ackerly. Fowlkes said his sister planned to continue to design ties, just not under the existing brand.
Fowlkes opened Peter-Blair in 1993, which he named after his two godchildren.
Fowlkes, 63, said the time had come to retire, and that his exit is also motivated by disruptions in the wider retail industry. He pointed to supply-chain challenges and changes in clothing trends ushered in by the pandemic as contributing factors.
“Things really changed and I was like, why am I working this hard when it’s almost time (to retire),” he said.
In retirement, Fowlkes said, he plans to focus on his work on the boards of the St. James Children’s Center and Riverside School. He also will spend more time on his oil paintings.
“I absolutely love the smell of the paint. I love what you can create and I have a lot of commissions lined up,” he said.
New owners at Libbie Market
Just up the street, another Libbie-Grove retailer is also thinking about its next chapter.
Libbie Market recently brought on new co-owners Rebecca Daniel and Curtis Sammons. They join current owners Buster Wright and David Taylor, the duo who founded the small grocery store, and Sam Dortch, who became a co-owner in 2016.
Taylor said Daniel and Sammons, who were both store employees prior to becoming owners, were brought on as owners to take over day-to-day operational duties as the store looks toward the future. Daniel is the store’s assistant general manager and Sammons is the executive chef.
“It’s part of our succession plan,” Taylor, 63, said in an interview last week. “We just felt the timing was right to bring in support on the operations side for Sam and we have two long-time employees that we had earmarked, so to speak. We knew these folks had potential to be owners.”
Taylor and Wright bought and rebranded the store in 2010 when it was owned by Ukrop’s and known as Joe’s Market.
Taylor said that he and Wright, 76, have transitioned into more limited roles at the store, though they haven’t decided on a timeline for full retirement.
“I see the both of us continuing to be involved in the company for years to come,” Taylor said.
The store has about 105 employees, Taylor said. It leases its 10,000-square-foot space.
Sammons said it has been a longtime goal of his to be a business owner. He joined Libbie Market as a line cook about eight years ago.
“It’s always been in the back of my mind as a possibility, a pie-in-the-sky type of thing. I had conversations three or four years ago with Sam. Nothing set in stone but more, ‘is this a possibility one day,” he said.
Sammons said the conversation was left at that but was rekindled last fall when the then-trio of owners approached him about joining their ranks.
Sammons said he’d like to see Libbie Market expand its existing catering business as a means to grow the business beyond what’s possible with shoppers.
“I think we have a big opportunity in catering, so we can continue to grow that business. We have such a small parking lot. Anything we can do that doesn’t require more cars in the parking lot is a good way to grow,” he said.
Sammons said that he wouldn’t be opposed to additional locations in the future, something Libbie Market tried briefly in the early 2010s with a store in Henrico County.
Sammons and Daniel became co-owners in May. Daniel didn’t return a phone message seeking comment.
Food Trade News first reported the expansion of Libbie Market’s ownership team.