SOURCE: Hardwick Clothes, Inc.

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December 09, 2014 15:26 ET

Tennessee's Hardwick Clothing Now "Back on Track"

CLEVELAND, TN--(Marketwired - December 09, 2014) - America's oldest tailor-made clothing maker has a new leadership team -- and a renewed focus on the future.

Earlier this month, Hardwick Clothing, Inc. -- the Cleveland, Tenn.-based company famous for its "Sewn in the South" slogan -- unveiled its new board of directors.

The board officially met in Cleveland for the first time on Dec. 4 and expressed confidence that the 134-year-old company, at one time legendary for having the top blazer in the world, would soon regain that status.

The board's formation came less than a year after Cleveland businessman Allan Jones acquired Hardwick in June. Jones vowed to pump new energy into the company and said he would spend $10 million in advertising to promote the Hardwick brand and new website Hardwick.com.

Serving alongside Chairman Jones on the board are:

* Vice Chairman and former Hardwick CEO Thomas Hopper. Hopper served as CEO from 1996 to 2014.

* Current CEO and President Bruce Bellusci. 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.

* John "Thunder" Thornton. Thornton provides unparalleled marketing insight from a lifetime of entrepreneurship in the carpet industry and real estate development.

* Kenneth Hoffman. Hoffman is regarded as one of the most knowledgeable clothiers in the world and is the former President and CEO of Hart Schaffner & Marx. He served with the company from 1967 to 2004.

* Lynn DeVault. DeVault is president of Jones Management Services in Cleveland. Prior to joining Jones Management, she served as CEO of Llama Holding Company. Llama was owned by the Walton family, principally Alice L. Walton. DeVault previously held various management positions with SunTrust Banks, Inc., in Atlanta, Ga., from 1980 to 1994.

During the meeting, the company's history and future was discussed, with an emphasis on a new line of clothing. According to Bellusci, "Upgrading product construction, quality, and fit while providing a tremendous cost value to our customer is our immediate focus."

To this end, Hardwick is working with the best mills from Italy, the United States, and England.

"Everyone in the meeting was energized and anxious to see Hardwick once again be a bastion of quality clothing," DeVault said. "We have an incredible team in place that is poised to do great things, and the future looks very bright."

Bellusci said pride is the driving component of Hardwick's resurgence.

"Every person, from the operators on the sewing floor to the people in the shipping department have a part in creating each garment and the best way to produce top quality is for each of them to take pride in the fact that 'I made that,'" he said. "To meet our goals, we need the right technology for our people, and Allan Jones is committed to bringing that technology to Hardwick."

More than $1 million worth of new equipment is being installed at the factory, Bellusci said. The upgraded machinery and software will automate some processes, but won't mean fewer jobs. Rather, it means the artisans already creating Hardwick products will have better tools at their disposal.

"We're going to be a great American company again," said Bellusci. "There's a lot of excitement flowing from Allan's entrepreneurial spirit, and that excitement can be seen throughout the Hardwick factory and in every stitch of every garment we produce."

Hardwick was founded on July 28, 1880 by Cleveland businessman C.L. Hardwick.

Jones was attracted to Hardwick, he said, because it was the oldest business of its kind in America. Hart Schaffner & Marx was founded in 1887, while Hickey Freeman began in 1899.

"In the past, Hardwick was the silent 'H' in Hardwick, Hart and Hickey," Jones said. "We are determined to change that. I will work with the board to make the brand famous again worldwide. There is no doubt -- the pendulum is swinging back to 'Made in America.'"

Jones is best known as the founder of Check Into Cash, which he started in 1993. He has numerous other brands, including LendingFrog.com, U.S. Money Shops, Buy Here Pay Here USA and 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.

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