The Kinnebrew Company to change ownership
By: Leila Sisson Case
The Kinnebrew Company, a downtown Americus business specializing in men’s and women’s upscale apparel, has been a family owned business since 1947 but that is soon to change.
Hulme Kinnebrew Jr., owner, has been associated with the business 54 years but he will retire June 30, having sold the business to Hank Hart, Will Easterlin and Todd Studdard all of Americus.
“They’re sending me home to New Era, and beginning a new era for Kinnebrew’s,” quipped Kinnebrew during a recent interview.
Asked what his thoughts are on retiring he replied, “I feel really good because I am putting the business in the hands of people who are capable, compatible with one another and I am totally confident they will continue the tradition of going in the right direction and build bigger and better opportunities; provide good customer service and top of the line products. I’ve always worked hard to find good apparel lines and merchandise – you have to have that to be successful.”
“Americus is very fortunate to have a store like Kinnebrew’s – stores in Columbus, Albany and Macon do not,” he said.
“Hank has been here 21 years and Todd is no stranger to the business, having worked here part time when he was in college in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s. Will Easterlin is well respected and I have always thought a lot of him. He will not be a part of the sales team but he will remain with his family business, Easterlin Pecan Co. in Montezuma. I could not be more excited for them,” said Kinnebrew.
“I don’t have immediate plans for the future except to begin a few projects I’ve put off and I will keep my office upstairs here so I will be available if needed.” said Kinnebrew.
Continuing he said, “Business is “very good” at the present time and I like being a part of the day-to-day management but there comes a time in life when you realize you need to slow down.” That time came for Kinnebrew six months ago when he was recuperating from a bad case of Covid-19.
“I had thought about retiring off and on but having Covid in January gave me time to think,” he said. “I realized it was time to let someone else take over. I was running out of steam –my legs were tired. That’s when I began to put plans together to retire and find the right people to handle the business.”
“I have grown up here,” said Kinnebrew, 71. His father, the late Easton Hulme Kinnebrew Sr. (Kinne), and the late Walter Rylander Sr. established The Kinnebrew Co. in 1947 and remained partners until 1951.
Kinnebrew was a student at Georgia Southwestern College in 1967 when he started his life-long career. He worked part-time at the store but he soon opened his own business, Sticks and Stones, located at the rear of the store and stocked it with styles that were popular at the time – bell bottom slim-fit trousers, wide belts, bracelets, leather hats, patterned sport coats, button-down shirts or polo shirts. “I put in a lot of research and time before buying the merchandise. We were the first store in South Georgia to offer this cutting edge style for men and it was successful. At the time there were seven men’s stores in Americus.
“My father was good about allowing me to express myself but he put a halt to it. However, it was a great experience for me and taught me a lot about managing money, dedication to work and buying menswear. You have to have the right product to succeed,” he said.
In 1980 Kinnebrew became a partner. He and his father both served as president of The Menswear Retailers of Georgia at different times and the elder Kinnebrew was president of the Menswear Retailers of America and Kinnebrew served on its board of directors. The national organization provided exposure for the business and network with people across the country.
He said he’s been fortunate to have had great family support from his father and mother, the late Nancy Kinnebrew Bell, and sister the late Carolyn Kinnebrew, who managed and developed the ladies area for 27 years that was highly successful, attracting clientele from a wide range. Kinnebrew also expressed appreciation for the many faithful customers throughout the years as well as former employees, many returning from out-of-town to shop.
Kinnebrew and his wife, Janet McNeill Kinnebrew, will celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary in August. They have two grown sons, Neil, an attorney with Synovous Bank who is married and has two children, Mary and Mac; and Easton Kinnebrew, who is in construction and also farms in the New Era community, raising olive trees. He and his wife, Stephanie, have twins, Kinne and Amelia, 13.
“I’ve had a wonderful career and I’m proud of what has been achieved,” said Kinnebrew. “I’m pleased about who I’m turning over the business to. They have a good opportunity. The business is well respected, successful and has a large following.”
Hank Hart, 40, said he is very excited to be a partner in the business. “It is a great opportunity for me. Having worked here since I was a student at Georgia Southwestern until today, Kinnebrew’s has been a big part of my life. I enjoy helping customers find the right item and keep them looking good. The business has been open since 1947 and we will continue the tradition of providing fine products and good customer service.” Hart is married to Kimberly Hart and they have a son, Henry, 7, and daughter, Abby, four.
Todd Studdard, 51, says “being offered a partnership with the Kinnebrew Co. is a once in a lifetime opportunity and I’m extremely excited to continue the tradition the store has had throughout the years. I am familiar with the business, having worked here from 1988-1992 when I was a student at Georgia Southwestern State University and have remained friends of Hulme since.” He and his wife, Dee, have a son, Chandler Studdard, 20, and daughter, Eva Grace Studdard, 15.
Those on the Kinnebrew sales team are Zoe Epperson, manager of the ladies area, Cameran Cruz, Hartley Goolsby, Abigail Johnson and Jacob Dillard. Bookkeeper is Linda Roberson.