Harper’s to shutter after eight decades
For almost eight decades, Harper’s in Fairfield has been a destination for women’s fashion in Fairfield County. Now its run is over.
Owner Jerry Gold is preparing to close the store for good on Tuesday.
“We’ve always had ‘next year’ up until this one, when I said ‘I’m tired’,” Gold said. “I’m tired and I want to take it easy … I want to go out on top. Things are good, I’m feeling fairly well for my age and … it’s a good time.”
In an age when traditional retail and mom and pop businesses have struggled to maintain a presence, Harper’s has bucked the trend and continued to attract customers with its inventory of furs and high-end fashion.
The store was once Harper’s Furs on the corner of Cannon and Broad streets in downtown Bridgeport, when the founders first opened the store 79 years ago. Gold purchased and eventually moved the retailer to 1871 Black Rock Turnpike.
While Gold doesn’t take credit for the entirety of that success, he said he has tried to build on the brand he acquired in 35 years ago by focusing on connecting with customers and providing a selection of high-quality products.
“We’ve tried to do all the right things,” he said. “We always try to do something to make it more exciting. Some things worked, and some things didn’t work.”
As fashion trends have ebbed and flowed over the years, Harper’s evolved along with it, adding spring clothing, jewelry and other accessories as the demand by customers increased.
Even when adapting to tastes and trends, the store never lost its roots, maintaining its sale of furs — demand of which has surged because of Connecticut’s harsh winters, Gold said.
Lasting 79 years in the retail business doesn’t just rely on inventory, however; Gold said the store has become a destination because of its staff and community atmosphere.
“Anybody that shops at Harper’s and knows Harper’s for the staff,” he said.
That’s what ultimately pulled employee Cale Lubchansky into the fold almost 15 years, she said.
She shopped at the store for years before taking a seasonal position.
“I never left,” she said. “This is the best job I’ve ever had in my whole life. It’s a family here — the employees, the owners, and the customers.”
With closure on the horizon, Harper’s staff have been busier than ever with customers making purchases and coming to say their farewells to the staff, Gold said.
“It’s time,” he said. “People are coming in here left and right. People are purchasing, which is wonderful, but even people who aren’t purchasing are coming in just to say goodbye and thank me for all the years … It’s been a wonderful run and I’m very happy.”