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Hickey Freeman factory to get new owner: the Tom James clothing company

The Hickey Freeman building in Rochester
NYS Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation
The Hickey Freeman building in Rochester

There is a new owner coming in for the historic clothing factory in Rochester that formerly was a manufacturing facility for Hickey Freeman suits and other clothing.

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and New York Gov. Kathy Hochul said Thursday that Tennessee-based Tom James Company, the largest U.S. maker of custom clothing, has plans to purchase the North Clinton Avenue factory.

The officials said Tom James will maintain nearly 200 union employees and expects to add up to an additional 45 jobs over the next five years.

Todd Browne, CEO of Tom James, issued a statement saying that his company “is very excited to welcome the legacy of fine tailoring from Rochester Tailored Clothing into the Tom james Family.” He added that the company is committed to preserving the art of garment making in the U.S.

Earlier this year, it was announced that although jobs would be preserved, the Hickey Freeman clothing manufacturing would be moving to Mexico.

Schumer called the 112-year-old factory a “Rochester institution, woven into the very fabric of the community,” and he said he made a personal appeal to the Tom James CEO after the factory was put up for sale earlier this year.

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Schumer said that when he visited the clothing factory several years ago and walked the floor alongside its employees, he “committed to making sure their future was secure for years to come.”

Hochul said that the factory “will continue to be a source of employment, high quality clothing and Rochester pride for years to come.”

John Hitt, the chief financial officer for Tom James, said that as this deal was coming together, his firm began reaching out to some of their primary existing customers.

“Without exception, they raved about the quality of the garments that are produced there," he said. "They could not have been more complimentary of the products that come out of that factory, and that really resonated with us on many levels.”

Gary Bonadonna Jr. heads up Workers United in Rochester, the union that represents many of the employees at the local clothing factory. He is pleased with the deal, noting that Tom James has a lot of resources and has committed to keeping the factory in Rochester.

Bonadonna noted there are other Tom James clothing factories throughout the U.S. that have employees represented by Workers United, and he said that “having that relationship … and they’re not antagonistic to organized labor, this is all really tremendously positive.”

Hitt expects the deal to purchase the Rochester factory to take about two to three weeks to complete.

Randy Gorbman is WXXI's director of news and public affairs. Randy manages the day-to-day operations of WXXI News on radio, television, and online.