By Seth Grundhoefer, Evansville Courier & Press

When Scott Strouse closes the doors to his Evansville department store for the last time, he won't be going out with his shirttail untucked and double Windsor knot slipped halfway down his neck.

The wouldn't be his style. Nor would it match the three generations of Strouse family owners that preceded him.

His retail specialty store, Strouse's, now on Lincoln Avenue, began in Evansville in 1868. Because of a change in demand, the store is closing its final location after a liquidation sale in October. The decision, which Strouse said was made about two weeks ago, will end the business's 141-year history.

But for Strouse, the closing signifies more than just the demise of a small and quiet "mom-and-pop" operation. As the longest serving family-owned business in the city, Strouse calls it "an end of an era."

"When we started, Main Street was full of stores like us," he said. "Now, you don't see anything like us around here."

Strouse's originally was at Second and Main streets in Downtown Evansville. Founded by Strouse's great-grandfather, Abraham Strouse, the store set out to offer a unique service to the public.

"I think for a lot of people, how they looked was extremely important, and they were willing to invest a lot into that," Strouse said.

Plus, there was an added feature: customers could get a "better product" under the supervision of a trained eye, which was typically a family member.

"I'd say just about everyone in the family either worked here all the time, or worked here while they were in high school or college," he said.

And as the business began to grow, additional Strouse's sprouted in Lawndale, Northbrook, Plaza, Eastland Mall and De Jong's Men's Department. Each location offered specialty items, ranging from unique suit styles, dressware, sportsware and hard-to-find sizes for men and women, Strouse said. At it's peak, Strouse's was a regional business with seven locations in four different states.

"If you wanted to go somewhere and find a purple blazer, we'd probably have a purple blazer for you," he said.

However, during his 47 years in the retail business, Strouse has watched as fashion shifted. No longer do customers look for a fitted suit or professionally made garments, and no longer do businesses require employees to wear a suit and tie or dress to work.

Though he and his wife, Chris, have three children, because of the change in the times, Strouse said the family business would end with him. The only question was when. But other than a struggling economy, for years Strouse has seen the signs of the store's eventual end looming.

While attending a funeral near a county club, Strouse wore a black suit to pay his respects. Later in the service, a couple entered the funeral home still wearing their golf clothes and cleats.

"I remember thinking to myself, the end of the apparel business must be coming ... if people think it's acceptable to do that," he said.

Now, the family-owned business has condensed to one store location with seven full-time employees, excluding Strouse and his wife.

He runs the men's department, and she handles the ladies department.

"Before I never had to do much of the stocking, but we pretty much do it all now," he said. "I know they write books about the problems with family businesses, but we don't qualify in that category."

"It's very satisfying, and it always has been," he added. "I think with some of the people involved, that's what kept them in the business so long."

Strouse's will begin a final liquidation sale on Oct. 15 along with an apparel store known as Levinson's.

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