When you’ve been in business as long as J.W. Hulme, you’re bound to see some changes. They’ve weathered shifts in ownership and industry trends, but we were saddened to learn that J.W. Hulme announced recently they are closing their doors for good.
Let’s delve into the storied past of this iconic brand and uncover what led to its unexpected ending.
History of J.W. Hulme
Tracing J.W. Hulme’s history, you’d find a long-standing legacy of craftsmanship and quality, dating back to its inception in 1905. The brand, located in Minnesota, began as a humble tent and awning company under the ownership of John Willis Hulme. With the outbreak of World War I, it shifted gears to produce military equipment, demonstrating its versatility and commitment to the nation’s needs.
The post-war period saw J.W. Hulme delve into leather goods manufacture, quickly gaining a reputation for their durable, high-quality products. Their leather goods, marked by an indelible stamp of craftsmanship, were sought after across the country.
However, it wasn’t always smooth sailing. The Great Depression brought challenges, but J.W. Hulme’s resilience saw it through, continuing to produce its signature products. This is a testament to the company’s commitment to quality and resilience in the face of adversity.
In recent decades, the brand expanded its product range to include luggage, handbags, and accessories, all while maintaining its commitment to American craftsmanship. Sadly, though, after 118 years of operation, the beloved brand is closing its doors for good. The legacy of J.W. Hulme, however, will endure.
The company’s ownership hasn’t remained static over the years, having passed through several hands before reaching its current state. Initially, J.W. Hulme was a family-owned business with its roots in St. Paul, Minnesota. It thrived under the leadership of its original owners, making a name for itself in the high-quality leather goods market.
However, as the years passed, the business encountered various financial difficulties. This caused a shift in ownership, most notably in 2009 when Olympus Capital Investments, a New Jersey private equity firm, invested in J.W. Hulme and became the majority owner.
They closed the St. Paul manufacturing facility and moved J.W. Hulme production to Softline Brand Partners, which has locations in the US and overseas.
Then again in 2019, ownership changed to iMedia Brands, owners of ShopHQ (the popular TV shopping network).
J.W. Hulme’s Sudden Closing
Despite its owners’ best efforts, J.W. Hulme’s journey ended abruptly, shocking both employees and loyal customers. A beacon of quality and timeless American craftsmanship, the company’s sudden closure left a vacuum that won’t be easily filled. The news hit hard, with many wondering how such a respected brand could vanish overnight.
Unforeseen financial difficulties were the main culprits. The company’s revenue had been dwindling for years, and despite their best efforts, they couldn’t “keep the factory efficient and full,” according to Dean Vanech, CEO of Olympus Capital Investments.
J.W. Hulme’s abrupt closure marks the end of an era. Its sad to see premium leather goods manufacturers like them with such rich history close their doors.
It’s a loss felt not just by the company, but the entire community it served.
Image credit: J.W. Hulme