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Larry Tackett set to retire; men’s clothing store tradition will remain

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By Molly Haines

Larry Tackett remembers well the weeks and days leading up to R.L. Valladingham’s going-out-of-business sale.
Valladingham opened the men’s clothing store on Seminary Street during the early 1930s and after about 20 years in business, chose to close up shop.
“It was probably the first and only time I’ve ever seen a sale like that,” Tackett recalled. “I worked it – I was in high school – but I remember it. They hired this little man, and he came in here in a little derby hat and stayed at the hotel. He blacked the windows, and there were signs everywhere and prices on everything – he really marked it down. They sent out advertisements, they did everything and sold it just about empty.”
Some 60 years later, Tackett is having a sale of his own, but his initial plans to close Larry Tackett’s Mens Wear were halted two weeks ago when his son, Tommy, and daughter-in-law Deanna, announced their interest in keeping the business alive.
Tackett, 76, has spent the last six months searching for a potential buyer of the downtown business staple to little avail and was set to close Dec. 31.
Both Tommy and Deanna are recently retired state employees who say they didn’t want to see the shop close “for Owen County.”
“We’ve had a lot of people come to us, not just Owen County people, but people we know from Frankfort,” Tommy Tackett said. “For our kids and for us, we just didn’t want it to go out of business – and actually for Owen County – there aren’t too many stores left.”
Larry Tackett, along with his wife, Doris, will remain in the store through Jan. 1, when Tommy and Deanna will take over.

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‘It was just a job to buy gas money.’

Larry Tackett took the job at Valladingham’s as a high school student, never dreaming that it would eventually become his life’s work.
“It was just a job to buy gas money,” Tackett said. “It was just a high school job.”
Once Valladingham’s closed, former Owenton Mayor H.T. Riley opened Riley’s Mens Wear, where Tackett took a full-time sales job in the late 1960s.
When Riley decided to leave the clothing business behind in the early 1980s, Tackett took over, changing the name to Larry Tackett’s Mens Wear. In 1985, the business began offering alterations courtesy of Doris Tackett.
The name change, according to Tackett, turned out to be a blessing.
When Tackett was preparing to take over the store, he said Riley wanted around $150 a month for the use of his name. After talking it over with other local business owners, Tackett chose to rename the store.
“I talked to H.T. and told him, ‘Let me use it till Jan. 1 and I’ll change it,’” he said. “That’s when we went on and changed it. That was a really good thing to do. People would’ve come in here and called me Riley if we’d left it that way.”
Tackett has remained dedicated to his customers over the years, only taking two to three days off here and there.
“I’d always be ready to come back,” he said. “Some people are easier to wait on than others. I know one time we took two or three days off and this customer came in and she was a very hard lady to satisfy, but after I was gone two or three days, it didn’t bother me. She was easy, and I was easy. When you see that door open, you ought to be tickled to death, but sometimes when you don’t get away for a while, you’re not tickled to death.”
As times changed and dress became increasingly casual, so too, did business.
“H.T. went to dinner one day, and I think I sold five or six suits while he was gone,” Tackett recalled. “Now if I sell five or six suits a month I’m lucky. I used to buy ties every month, now I buy them maybe twice a year. I used to have 25 or 30 salespeople I’d buy from, now I’ve got half a dozen.”
Much of Tackett’s business today is centered on men’s work attire, including brands like Carhartt and Red Wing.

Going forward

Both Larry and Doris Tackett agreed they never imagined their children would become interested in the business.
When Tackett began shopping the business around earlier this year, he said at least two people expressed relative interest in the store.
“I called one the day after we talked to Tom and Deanna and told them that we thanked them for showing interest in it, but it looked like we were gonna keep it in the family,” Tackett said. “They were really nice about it. They said that’s the way it ought to be.”
Growing up, Tommy Tackett said he and his brother, Terry Tackett of Frankfort, helped out around the store only a few times at Christmas – “Usually all we did was take inventory back when they used to do inventory,” he said.
Taking over the business will be a “learning experience,” according to Tommy, who said he and Deanna have yet to sit down and discuss any possible changes for the store, other than creating a website.
While Larry is excited for Tommy and Deanna, he’s also eager to see what the future holds for his grandchild, Nolan.
A 2017 graduate of Owen County High School, Nolan is currently attending Indiana University Southeast in New Albany, Ind., where he recently changed his major in hopes of one day taking over the family business.
“He came by to talk to (Doris) and I,” Larry said. “He’s in college studying courses to do this kind of work, and he’s really thinking that he might come back.”
In their retirement, Larry and Doris say they’re not much on traveling, but hope to spend more time with their grandchildren, and while much has changed over the years, the two agree they are thankful for the community they’ve served.
“It’s a great little community,” Larry said. “There’s just not as much of it as there was when we started. We just want to thank everybody for using us and keeping us in business. I’ve enjoyed every minute of it, and I hope they continue supporting Tom and Deanna, and maybe Nolan.”