NEW YORK — While other retailers cut back, Gabriel Brothers Inc., the family-owned and operated discounter with stores in the South, Midwest and mid-Atlantic regions, is building up.

In the past month, the retailer has created a buying organization, recruiting 10 buyers from such competitors as T.J. Maxx and Kmart, to support planned growth and relieve family members of buying responsibilities so they can focus on strategic and corporate objectives.

Now working from the firm’s Morgantown, W. Va., headquarters are buyers Kevin Crawford, men’s furnishings and outerwear; Diana Hutchinson, children’s wear; Phyllis Kuchuck, handbags and accessories; Joan Leponis, misses’, plus sizes and swimwear; Wendy McCormick, intimate apparel, socks and hosiery, and Bruce Myers, juniors’.

Working at the company’s Los Angeles office are buyers Saul Grossman, footwear and accessories; Sherry Jones,children’s wear; Perry Petchenick, juniors’, and Janet Browner, misses’, contemporary and swimwear.

They will buy for both of the retail divisions, Gabriel Brothers and Rugged Wearhouse.

“This group of individuals has come to Gabriel Brothers to enable the Gabriel family to more strategically manage the buying function as well as the rest of the corporation,” said John Gabriel, chief merchandising officer, in a statement.?

According to Walter Holbrook, senior vice president of operations, Gabriel Brothers, which has seven family members at the helm, operates 54 Rugged Wearhouse units averaging 12,000 square feet in size, and 35 Gabriel’s stores, each 45,000 to 50,000 square feet. Gabriel’s has opened three stores and will open one more this year. Rugged Wearhouse has opened 20 stores in the past 12 months and plans five to eight more before the year is over. Generally, discounts at the chains are 40 to 70 percent off regular retail prices.

The company has been working with Clear Thinking Group Inc., a retail and consumer products consulting organization in Hillsborough, NJ., to develop strategic and tactical solutions to help it grow. The company also retained DCB and Co. Inc. to assist with designing a new distribution facility and process.

Gabriel Brothers was founded in 1961, but traces its roots to the 1920s when Lebanese immigrant Z.G. Gabriel began peddling merchandise in the coal towns of Fayette County, Pa. Z.G. Gabriel was the father of James and Arthur Gabriel Sr., the founding partners of Gabriel Brothers Inc.

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