By  on September 15, 2008

The retailer marks its 50th with a major hugfest.

The Connecticut retail juggernaut, owners of Mitchells, Richards and Marshs specialty stores, played host to over 150 vendors and friends earlier this month at Valbella, a restaurant in Greenwich, for cocktails, hors d’oeuvres and dinner. “This night is about one thing: Thank you, thank you, thank you,” co-president Bob Mitchell told the gathering. “We couldn’t have gotten here without you.”

The occasion marked the 50th anniversary of Mitchells, which was founded by Ed and Norma Mitchell with three suits and a dream in Westport in 1958. Since then, the business has grown to include Richards and Marshs, as well as several Vineyard Vines shops.

The event was co-hosted by GQ, whose publisher, Peter Hunsinger, deemed it the “50th annual Mitchells hugfest.”

After a tribute video to the store’s remarkable success over the past half-century, Jack and Bill Mitchell, co-CEOs, along with Russ, co-president, took their turns at the mike to express their appreciation to their associates and guests. “We don’t do it alone,” Russ said. “We’ve assembled the best team and surrounded ourselves with good people. That’s a hallmark of our success.”

Bill Mitchell said he had committed to his father, Ed, that he’d work in the store for one year—that was 43 years ago—but he’s never regretted a moment on the sales floor. His brother Jack, who has been in the business nearly as long, pointed to the “personal relationships” as the key to “what’s made our business so strong.” As a result, he believes “the next 50 years will be even brighter.”

During the dinner, vendors periodically tapped their glasses for quiet and stood up to continue the hugfest. One was Massimo Bizzocchi, who said he considered the Mitchells “famiglia,” the ultimate compliment for an Italian, as he raised a glass to salute the Mitchells as they kick off the next half-century.

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