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Putting in the work: Local ma and pop shop, Richter’s Men’s Wear, celebrates 50 years

Connie and Steve Richter pose for a portrait in Richter's Men's Wear on May 28. Steve and Connie took over the store in 1983 from Steve's parents Gardy and Hilde Richter. (Carter Jones/ FOCUS) 1 / 3
Gardy and Hilde Richter opened Richter's Men's Wear in 1969. (E-B file) 2 / 3
Hilde and Gardy Richter stand by Steve in 1994 for the store's 25th anniversary. Richter's Men's Wear is now celebrating 50 years. (Chuck Johnson) 3 / 3

For decades Connie and Steve Richter have been thanking their loyal customers, but recently their customers have started to thank them.

"We don't know them personally, but they were just so happy, they thanked us," Connie said. "It's unbelievable how they do really miss service."

This month, Richter's Men's Wear celebrates 50 years of business in an evolving retail landscape that continues to push out independents in favor of big box and online retailers.

While the retail market continues to shrink, with Herberger's and Shopko closing in the last year, Richter's enjoyed its best year ever.

"We really feel we're doing something right," Steve said. "We're outlasting everybody."

"You know people have come into business after us and probably took it away from us for a while, but now we're still here and getting it all back," Connie said.

Richter's debuted in June 1969, when Steve's parents, Gardy and Hilde, converted their cafe into a clothing store. After a fire at the neighboring Coast to Coast hardware store, Gary and Hilde retired early and passed the store down to Steve and Connie.

Connie ran the store for two years, while Steve worked full time at EOT Telephone before he transitioned into the store full time.

Day in and day out

Steve says he owes his mentality as a "grinder" to growing up watching his dad work hard.

"He was the one that put in the time. He would be here six days a week, because he had to," Steve said choking up. "There was no other choice. He had to work. He had to pay the bills, so he did."

Even after 36 years, Steve has no plans of slowing down.

"I'm here. I'll be here. In the summer we go seven days a week from Memorial Day to Labor Day," he said. "That's how you survive. 95% of the other people wouldn't do that."

While their success continues to grow, there aren't many Steve and Connie's left that are willing to put in the work.

"It's just the independents seem to be, once they go out of business, there's nobody usually coming back," Steve said. "A lot of these guys, their business was very good, but there's nobody to take over."

"There's no family members that used to carry it on like we did," Connie added. "We're the mom and pop store."

"We're not seeing that anymore, so once they exit, they're gone for good," Steve said.

The Richter's pride themselves on personalized service, which Steve said "nobody can compete with."

"I did tell Steve he needs to change his ways though," Connie said. "If we're that busy, we can't get to those pants, it can wait. It's not like it used to be."

Their attention to detail also attracts customers from a wider area than they're normally used to, they said.

"Not everybody still wants to go to that big town, Fargo." Connie said. "Now, they'll sit there and Google us and say, 'Oh, we can go to Perham. Let's go to Perham.'"

"We've weathered the storms. Let's put it that way," Steve added.

The Richter's credit some of their success to Perham's united business district that works together and promotes together.

"We make a big splash together," Steve said. "We all draw on each other's coat tails. He brings a couple to town. I bring a couple to town. And we all benefit."

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