CHICAGO--Merle Gross, founder and owner of Merle Limited, a veteran operation of Chicago's apparel manufacturing industry, has sold the business to an investment company, JMH Acquisition Inc., owned by John Hendley.
The company will continue to trade as Merle Limited. Hendley is president and chief executive officer. Gross, who started the business 30 years ago, will continue to act as a consultant on an intermittent basis, Hendley said. No other personnel changes were planned, he said.
Merle, which is best known for sportswear and coats designed by Robin Andelman, has annual sales of $1.8 million and about 350 accounts nationwide, including department stores, specialty stores and boutiques.
Hendley, whose previous career was in high-tech equipment sales, said he has no prior experience in the apparel industry.
"[Buying Merle] is a chance to get into a company with a good bottom line, fashion forward product with appeal to a large market and room for expansion and growth," he said. He said he plans to grow Merle's business at 4 to 5 percent a year "conservatively."
Hendley said he plans to expand Merle's international sales to Canada, Ireland, England and France. The firm currently does a small amount of business in Vancouver, British Columbia, and Guam.

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