Facing retirement, two downtown shop owners call it quits
By Steve Jusseaume
Hampton Union, November 21, 2000
HAMPTON — The face of downtown Hampton, which has changed with the times over the decades, will be altered a little further sometime soon as two long-time business owners have announced they are getting out of retail in the coming months.
The owners of McDormand's Menswear and Gordon Shoe Store, which sit across the street from each other, are retiring, and both retail outlets will see changes in the near future. Under their present owners, the two businesses have maintained a combined 66-year presence on Lafayette Road.
Joan McDormand's clothing store has the longer tenure downtown of the two, having been open since 1954. McDormand recalled the business, which she started with her late husband Harry in November 1954.
"I've seen a lot of changes looking out these windows over the years. We've had some good years and some not so good, but I've made a lot of good friends here, and we have a lot of faithful customers," McDormand said this week.
She recalled buying a house adjacent to the store with Harry after he had retired from the Hood Milk Company. They renovated the old house, adding two offices on the second floor and remodeling the ground floor into two store fronts. Eventually the couple sold the building and purchased the McDormand's building, which at one time was an A&P grocery store. It also housed a sports store and auto parts business before the McDormands moved in, Joan said.
Since opening, McDormand's has sold shirts, jackets, sweaters, neckties, hats and socks to more than a generation of Hampton and Seacoast residents.
McDormand recalled there being a drug store across the street where Naturally Silk is now, and a First National grocery store where the Bib 'n Crib Shoppe currently stands. "But Bob's Barber Shop, located next door to McDormand's, "was always a barber shop," Joan noted.
She also recalled notable visitors who have stopped in at the shop, including Liberace, the poet Ogden Nash, and a host of others who either played at the Hampton Playhouse or at venues at the beach. "Liberace and Ogden Nash were regulars here," McDormand said.
She made a note to thank all her long-time customers. "I'll miss all those people who were customers then became friends," she said.
As for retirement, McDormand has big plans, including traveling and doing more backyard gardening. "I've been to 40 countries, and hope to travel a lot more," she said with a smile.
While McDormand has big plans for the future, Bob Gordon across the street doesn't have any, or isn't saying.
Gordon's Shoe Store is for sale after 20 years, and Gordon is hoping someone moves in who will continue to operate a shoe store.
Originally, he and his wife Nancy operated the Bib 'n Crib Shoppe next door. The couple, who live in Salisbury, purchased that retail operation from Nancy's mother upon her retirement. They eventually purchased the entire block on the west side of Route 1, and bought the shoe shop business, formally the Hampton Bootery, in 1970.
Like his neighbor across Lafayette Road, Gordon has seen changes in the downtown landscape. Gordon recalled when Bob's Barber Shop across the street was Earl's Barber Shop. "But then Earl (Newman) went to Florida and it got sold," Gordon said.
He also said traffic along Hampton's main north/south thoroughfare was not nearly as heavy as it is today.
He's seen changes in the shoe business, also. "Styles change so fast now. Styles you featured at one time change so fast, before you know it you can't replace an old style. That's the trouble these days," Gordon said.
Gordon is selling the shoe store as an ongoing business. "I'd really like to find a buyer who will keep the store going as a family shoe store," Gordon said. If that doesn't happen, he'll likely liquidate the stock and close down.
Included in the store's stock is an old "R.C. Allen" cash register, which he said was in the store when he moved in. "It's electric but has a hand crank," Gordon said behind the counter, next to the black machine. "When the electricity goes off you can still crank it by hand. It's worked all these years. I say if it ain't broke, don't fix it."