Tim Ryan has found his white knight.
The owner of Harleys, a men’s specialty store in Shorewood, Wis., a suburb of Milwaukee, has sold the business to a fellow retailer from Green Bay, Wis.
On Monday, Ryan said he has completed the asset purchase for an undisclosed sum to Dan Wickman of Haberdasher Ltd. that will keep Harleys and its staff in business.
In January, Ryan, 69, kicked off a retirement sale as he sought to find a new owner for the business. The decision to sell came after being diagnosed nearly three years ago with alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency, a rare protein-deficiency disease that affects the lungs.
He had planned to retire at 70 but decided to “accelerate the process.”
Whitman, a Green Bay native, approached Ryan and started a conversation to ensure that the business “would be a good fit,” he said. “I knew Tim was getting out of the business and Harleys is a staple in Milwaukee, so it just made sense.”
This is a similar story to the one that got him into the retail business three years ago when Haberdasher’s owner was also looking to retire and seeking an exit strategy. Wickman said his family had shopped at the store for decades and didn’t want it to disappear, so he took the plunge “and worked something out to keep a men’s store in the area. It was a similar situation with Harleys.”
Wickman had no experience in retail but brought in a manager who had worked for Mark Shale, a Chicago-based retailer, to show him the ropes. At Harleys, he said, he plans to lean on the staff to continue the store’s tradition.
Ryan said he has negotiated an employment agreement to stay until June 30 to help with the transition, at which point he will depart.
“It’s a little bittersweet,” he said. “I’ve worked for Harleys for 50 years and owned it for 30 years, so this has been my adult job. I’m just very grateful to be able to sell the business to a wonderful buyer who will carry my vision forward with his own perspective.”
Ryan has been the sole owner of Harleys since 2000 when he bought out his former partner, Thomas Brill. The store was founded in 1948 by brothers Harold and Stanley Dubman who combined their names to come up with Harley’s. The apostrophe was eventually eliminated.
Haberdasher is more than 50 years old.
Wickman said the two stores are located about a 90-minute drive apart and he expects to spend a couple of days a week at each location.