Shop Around

Shop Around: Moe Levy’s getting out of the ski business

krupon@thestate.comDecember 27, 2012 

Moe Levy's owner Harold Rittenberg reminisces about the days when they used to keep all their products in boxes and cover everything with sheets when they closed "to keep the dust off." Today, Moe Levy's, Columbia's oldest outfitter's store, is getting out of the ski-wear business. The store, which opened in 1920, plans to stay open but a lack of snow the last couple of years has prompted owner Harold Rittenberg to switch up the products he offers in the winter.

C MICHAEL BERGEN — mbergen@thestate.com Buy Photo

Moe Levy’s is getting out of the ski business and shutting down more than half of the space at its longtime Assembly Street location.

The 92-year-old store – popular for its Levi’s and Dickies – has been selling skiwear for at least a couple of decades, owner Harold Rittenberg said. The owners are selling off their ski inventory after being hit by a double whammy of warm winters and a cold economy.

“Everything right now is 20 to 60 percent off – including the socks and underwear, which we never discount,” Rittenberg said.

Moe Levy’s – an institution in downtown Columbia – will remain open.

“We’re not going anywhere. … We’re going to keep Moe Levy’s as long as we can,” said Rittenberg, 82, who runs the store with his wife, Gloria, and his 105-year-old mother-in-law, Florence Levy, who still reports for work daily at the store her late husband, Moe, opened in 1920. The family also runs the Reliable Loan pawn shop next door, which it opened during World War II.

“The pawn shop is keeping us going,” Rittenberg said, as the store tries to sell off its skiwear and return to selling clothes.

The owners temporarily have moved all the men’s and ladies’ apparel out of the store’s 4,500-square-foot showroom and filled it with ski bibs, caps, coats, ski pants and other accessories by companies such as Columbia, Spyder and Boulder Gear to try to move it before mid-March.

“We’re putting everything else on hold just to get rid of the skiwear,” Rittenberg said.

After the ski season is over, Rittenberg will return the men’s and ladies’ clothing lines to the main showroom and attempt to rent out the three storefronts – or 6,000 square feet – the ski business previously occupied.

All of the ski apparel inventory is from last year, Rittenberg said.

“We didn’t buy anything this year; it was all carried over because we had such a lousy season,” he said, despite the store having a virtual monopoly on the skiwear business in Columbia.

Many skiers have cut back on expensive ski trips as they struggle with a poor economy, Rittenberg said. While the economy is showing signs of improvement, it still has a long way to go to recover from the worst recession in a lifetime.

But scientists also say skiing hot spots, especially those in warmer climates, are being threatened by climate change, according to recent reports. The past two winters have been particularly warm, a trend that could make car trips from South Carolina to the ski slopes a thing of the past.

“I’m not fighting the elements anymore,” Rittenberg said. “This is long enough.”

He said demand has not been strong, but he has had interest from a church group, for example, that wants to buy ski apparel for a trip to the slopes by its youth group.

“We just hope they get enough snow up there for them to go,” he said.

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