Friday, January 18, 2019

100 years of customer service: Levinsky’s celebrates centennial

By Matt Pascarella

At one time or another, you’ve probably been in Levinsky’s on Route 302 in Windham. Whether you need a sweatshirt, pair of pants, winter clothing or some Patriots or Red Sox apparel, Levinsky’s has been serving the public for years. This April marks their 100th anniversary.

Owner Eric Levinsky’s grandfather, Jacob Levinsky, regularly brought military surplus items like blankets, buckets and clothing from Fort Williams to his barn on 8 Oxford Street in Portland and sold them to the public. The very first Levinsky’s opened in 1919 and that same store remained opened into the 1990s.

Eric Levinsky describes that first store, originally called New England Army Supply as the beginning of it all. “The roots that started that store in 1919 are the same ones that have moved it forward.” It evolved into a men’s clothing store, although early on it carried everything from basketballs to belts to firearms.
Eric describes his grandfather and grandmother as being conservative in their consumption and lifestyle, common for the era. In 1930, during the Depression, Jacob was able to sell a significant amount of army candles, similar to a tea candle, to the Hannaford Brothers during a big ice storm when all the power went out in the Munjoy Hill area. Jacob sold enough candles and made enough money to make it through the Depression.

After the popularity of the bellbottom pant in the 1960s and 1970s, Levinsky’s became a men’s and women’s clothing store instead of just a men’s clothing store. With so many new clothing styles and brands, Levinsky’s popularity skyrocketed in the late 1980s. Levinsky’s opened a store in Freeport on Route One, one in Brewer and in the Windham Mall. Unfortunately, over time the Freeport, Brewer and Portland locations had to close, but the Windham Mall location was very successful until business began to change in the mall. In 2005, Eric decided it would be better to move to their current location as a freestanding store on Route 302.

Eric started working for his father and grandfather in 1972 when he was 13 years old. When he turned 15, Eric began to take on a bit of a managerial role. He attended trade shows with his father and learned how and what type of merchandise needed to be purchased for the store. Eric saw the relationships his father made. He stated that building relationships is important, whether it be for business reasons or otherwise. He enjoys working with people and the sociability of talking with customers. Eric stated that he is especially interested in learning about customers and what products they are looking for and need.

Ad from 1985
Eric described his family as being well embedded in Maine. Often, customers come in and reminisce about past experiences or purchases. Eric said that these intimate connections made with people are so unusual and is what he enjoys about his job.

“Bigger stores could never provide that feeling of community, one-on-one, that we have had for a hundred years,” Eric explained.

“We appreciate our customers, we know our customers and we love our customers. We always put them first. There is always a Levinsky in the store; we try to do it right for our customers ... we have a big heart and care about people. If you want to talk to us, we definitely want to talk to you.”

Happy Anniversary, Levinsky’s!


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