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Annapolis Clothing hangs it up persistent recession blamed


Annapolis Clothing Co., a once-flourishing women's apparel chain that had as many as seven stores in the Baltimore area in the 1980s, has abandoned its efforts to reorganize and will go out of business.

The Glen Burnie-based company will hold a liquidation sale starting tomorrow at its last two stores, at Dobbin Center in Columbia and Perry Hall Crossing Center in Perry Hall. Its stores in Annapolis and at Westview Mall were closed recently, costing about 20 people their jobs. The Westview store had moved there from Security Boulevard.

Already staggered by the first wave of the recession, which drove it into Chapter 11 bankruptcy a year ago, Annapolis Clothing could not survive the second wave last fall.

"It looked very good through August. We were nicely ahead of plan," Merle A. Lebowitz, the company's president, said yesterday. "Business just died off in the whole fall season."

Annapolis Clothing becomes the second Baltimore-area women's clothing chain to close in the wake of a weak holiday season. Last month, the five-store Linda Lynn chain filed for liquidation under Chapter 7 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code.

Mr. Lebowitz, a former Hecht's executive, opened the first Annapolis Clothing store in 1978 in Annapolis. By 1986, the chain had grown to seven locations, each with an Annapolis Clothing store offering career and sports wear and an Annapolis Woman store for large sizes. The stores, which sold brand-name clothing at discount prices, racked up $11 million in annual sales at their peak, Mr. Lebowitz said.

In 1987, however, the company's growth faltered as new centers such as Owings Mills Town Center and Marley Station Mall brought new competition and saturated the market, Mr. Lebowitz said.

The stock market crash in October 1987 caused "a slight blip" in the business, he said, but was "a foreshadowing of things to come."

After the Chapter 11 filing last year, the company closed locations in Pasadena, Owings Mills and Towson.

Mr. Lebowitz, 48, was philosophical about the liquidation. "This is capitalism; this is change," he said. "We had a very good run." He said he would not rule out a return to the retail business with some other approach. "As Arnold Schwarzenegger said, "I'll be back,' " he said.

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