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Jaymar-Ruby to close doors after nearly a century
JON L. HENDRICKS | THE TIMES A man walks into the Jaymar-Ruby factory outlet Tuesday in Michigan City. After more than 90 years in operation, the Jaymar-Ruby clothing plant is set to close Nov. 4.

MICHIGAN CITY | Jaymar-Ruby, the world-renowned maker of men's clothing and possibly best known for its Sansabelt line of men's slacks, will close its doors forever.

According to a letter distributed by the current England-based owners to the more than 90 Jaymar-Ruby employees, workers will be let go in phases until early November when the plant closes.

The company, which originated in 1916 in Chicago, relocated to Michigan City six years later.

"We hate to see them go," said Michigan City Area Chamber of Commerce President Tim Bietry.

The clothing maker near Interstate 94 and U.S. 421 nearly shut down in 2003 but remained open with help from a state tax restructuring.

Earlier this year, though, parent company Hartmarx filed for bankruptcy.

Contacts with Hartmarx were made by Michigan City Mayor Chuck Oberlie and Michigan City Economic Development Corp. Executive Director John Regetz to inquire about Jaymar-Ruby's status locally.

Hartmarx later was acquired by Emerisque, a London-based company that began closing Hartmarx plants in Illinois, Alabama and Ontario, Canada.

Regetz said the city had no inside connections with the British firm to enable it to try and rescue the plant.

"There was no way to do that," Regetz said.

Bietry said he was aware Hartmarx was having financial difficulties.

And, even after the sale to Emerisque, Bietry said news of the closure took him by surprise.

"I didn't think that was going to happen," Bietry said.

Michigan City City Councilman Willie Milsap said he was approached by several employees upset over the announcement.

Milsap said he will contact state Rep. Scott Pelath, D-Michigan City, and U.S. Rep. Joe Donnelly, D-Ind., along with representatives of the union that's in place at the company to see what can be done to help the employees.

"We'll go from there," Milsap said.

Bietry said he recalls the recognition the city received years ago from advertising that pointed out Jaymar-Ruby clothing was manufactured in Michigan City.

Jaymar-Ruby, which once had a work force of more than 500, also held the patent for the Sansabelt waistline developed for its slacks in 1957.

"Bud" Ruby, who's approaching his 90th birthday, took over the firm in 1957 from his father, who founded the company.

Ruby has a residence in the Michigan City area and in Florida.

He was known for maintaining a strong presence in the community in terms of personal involvement and giving back financially, officials said.

It has been several years since clothes were actually made in Michigan City, where the company operated solely as a distribution center and retail outlet.

"I guess it's just inevitable," Bietry said.

Attempts to reach company officials Tuesday were not successful.