By  on August 19, 2005

NEW YORK — The Mitchells dynasty is about to get bigger.

The upscale Westport, Conn.-based retailer has made a deal to merge with Marshs, a Huntington, N.Y.-based store. Terms were not disclosed.

Bob Mitchell, co-president of Mitchells, announced the acquisition to Marshs' associates on Monday afternoon and made a similar announcement to Mitchells and Richards employees on Tuesday. Mitchells purchased the Greenwich, Conn.-based Richards 10 years ago.

In an exclusive interview, Mitchell said Marshs, which has annual sales of $9 million, is the "dominant men's wear presence on Long Island." The store also carries a smattering of women's items.

"This is a great opportunity to take our business to the next level," Mitchell said. "This is not about cost-cutting; it's all about growth. The companies have similar cultures and merchandise mixes and their associates also have tremendous longevity — that's the most important asset."

Chris Mitchell, Bob Mitchell's cousin who has been at the Westport store for the past two years, will relocate to Long Island and comanage Marshs along with Ron Marsh, the third generation of Marshs. His uncle, Daniel, and father, Marvin, co-owners and the second generation, also will remain involved in the business as consultants, Mitchell said.

"We will be a powerhouse" said Ron Marsh. "There is a special synergy between our families and our stores, which makes for a perfect pairing."

Marshs will retain its name but the Mitchells plan to more "aggressively" market the business. The first blitz will come next month in a mailer that will be sent to Marshs' 19,000 customers announcing the merger. The same book also will be inserted into The New York Times in September. It will be entitled "Perfect Pairs" and will speak about the combination of the two businesses.

A full renovation of Marshs is scheduled to begin in January and to be completed by August 2006. Mitchell said it's still unknown whether Marshs will add a more significant women's business during its renovation next year.

"We'd been looking [for a location] in Long Island for years," Mitchell said. But instead of trying to transport Mitchells or Richards to a new community, the path led to Marshs, he said. "Opening freestanding stores has a higher risk-reward than merging existing businesses," Mitchell said.The two companies have been talking for a year and actively negotiating for the past three months, he added.

When Mitchells bought Richards a decade ago, the store had annual sales of $10 million. A dramatic new store that opened five years ago and added women's wear has brought the volume up to $40 million, Mitchell said. He is hoping to have similar success with Marshs.

If the Marshs integration is as successful as expected, Mitchell said there might be opportunities for similar expansions in the future. "Our strategy is not to have 50 stores, but to operate high-end specialty stores in suburban markets," he said. "We believe that's the wave of how to compete against the stronger, larger, more consolidated big guys."

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