In a small southern town located at the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains in East Tennessee is Cleveland — home of Hardwick Clothes, America’s oldest tailor-made clothing manufacturer.
Hardwick is known for its “Sewn in the South” slogan and in the ‘60s made the best blazer in the world. The company will formally introduce its new CEO — and new flag — on July 28 at the company’s 134th birthday celebration.
When Allan Jones began negotiations to acquire the bankrupt Hardwick Clothes earlier this year, his first priority was to find the best leader possible to guide the 134-year-old company into the future.
Jones conducted a nationwide search and earlier today announced that Bruce Bellusci — formerly the Executive Vice President of Sales at Hart Schaffner & Marx — had been selected to fill the coveted position.
He is Hardwick’s ninth CEO/President since the company began in 1880.
Bellusci worked at Hart Schaffner & Marx for 34 years and served as the Executive Vice President since 2006. He was responsible for sales, merchandising, advertising, marketing, and distribution.
He is regarded as an expert in the tailored menswear business.
“Hardwick Clothes will soon be known as the company with the best blazer in the world and we wanted the best CEO to help us get there,” said Jones, best known as the founder and CEO of Check Into Cash, the second largest payday lender in America. “With Bruce on our team there is no limit to what we can achieve. The whole world is watching.”
Cleveland, TN businessman C.L. Hardwick founded Hardwick Clothes on July 28, 1880 and the company stayed in the family until the Jones acquisition on June 16.
Jones said the company’s new flag that will be flown every day after July 28 is actually an old flag – the version of Old Glory that existed in 1880.
“Old Glory only had 38 stars in 1880 and on July 28 we will be raising the same flag C.L. Hardwick raised on the company’s first day 134 years ago,” Jones said. “Since that first day, the company has survived two major fires, two World Wars, the Great Depression, leisure suits, NAFTA and — worst of all — making us watch China manufacture our Olympic team’s blazers.”
Jones is considered to be one of the 20th wealthiest Tennesseeans. His career began at the age of 20 after he left college to help his father, who was suffering from emphysema, stabilize the family’s small, manually operated credit bureau located in his hometown of Cleveland. Jones built the business into the largest credit bureau database in the state and then turned the collection agency into the largest in Tennessee as well, with offices from Memphis to Atlanta.
Jones founded Check Into Cash in 1993 and the company grew to include 1,300 locations nationwide. He has numerous other brands, including LendingFrog.com, U.S. Money Shops and Buy Here Pay Here USA, LoanbyPhone.com. He is one of the largest title lenders in the country and has become one of the largest internet lenders through CheckIntoCash.com.
Jones paid $1.9 million for Hardwick’s assets through Jones CapitalCorp LLC but acknowledged it is going to take much more than that to turn the company around.
Jones acknowledged he will spend $10 million in advertising alone this year to promote the Hardwick brand and the new company website — Hardwick.com.
Bellusci said he and Jones share a common commitment to excellence and success.
“Hardwick is the oldest business of its kind in America and Allan and I will work together to make the brand famous again worldwide,” Bellusci said. “Allan believes the pendulum is swinging back to ‘Made in America’ and I agree – the future looks good for Hardwick and other American-made brands.”
Bellusci said he has already been impressed with what he has seen from the Hardwick team and Jones CapitalCorp.
“The employees at Hardwick are enthusiastic and excited about the new challenge ahead,” said Bellusci. “The journey starts now to regaining our national prominence. Working together, we will revitalize the Hardwick brand and reach new levels of success. The best is yet to come.”