Salinas’ Pat’s Monograms and Uniforms owners lose their business and their home.
Thursday, May 29, 2008
Buried somewhere beneath a pile of unpaid bills on Dennis Ostrander’s desk is an eviction notice. It’s full of legalese and fine print, but the bottom line is this: Pat’s Monograms and Uniforms must vacate its Westridge space behind Costco in Salinas. Now.
“I knew it was coming,” Ostrander says. “I’ve known it for a very long time. My wife and I worked seven days a week, 12 hours a day to keep the place afloat through one hard time after another, and it’s just gotten worse. We’ve been operating behind by about $10,000 a week since February. It’s just time.”
And so, on May 31, 22 years and 30 days after Pat’s first opened in Salinas, Ostrander and his wife, Zoe, will flip the “Closed” sign one last time and leave town. No more leather jackets, no more cop toys. No more nurse uniforms and no more plaid schoolgirl skirts.
Dennis has, for the most part, come to terms with it. It’s taking Zoe a little longer. “We sank every last dime we had into this business,” Dennis says. “And now because of the housing market, we’re upside down on our home, and the bank’s foreclosing on us. But we’ll stay until someone tells us to leave.”
To many, it’s more than another symptom of a recessed economy and the housing meltdown, probably because Pat’s is more than a monogram shop. It’s tradition and family, part of a child’s back-to-school shopping, part of parents’ work uniforms and school formals, and an essential piece of that rite of passage into a letterman’s jacket with the embroidered résumé.
When Pat’s moved to its current Westridge location in July 2001, it marked the end of squeezing between rows of clothes, or losing small children in round racks of uniforms. But the new 14,000-square-foot stucco building between Costco and Wal-Mart was missing something – perhaps the charm of Oldtown Salinas when its only neighbor was Wardwell’s TV and Stereo. The Wardwells left that space years ago, long before Harry Wardwell was a top dog at Rabobank or executive director of the International Airshow, or serving on the board of directors at Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital.
The Wardwells moved on from the Salinas business world and are now etched into the city’s grand history of what used to be.
Now it’s Zoe and Dennis’ turn to do the same. “I’ve watched kids come in here to do their school shopping for their first day of kindergarten, and then I’ve been here the day they picked up their tux for prom, and everything in between,” Dennis says. “I put their names on letterman jackets and talked them out of bad tux shirts.”
But the quarter-century romance is over. Dennis blames the economy. Perhaps the economy forgot that little girls still need plaid skirts, and big boys still need varsity letterman jackets. Sure, the textiles can come from anywhere. But nothing ever seems to fit as well as it does when it comes from the family store.
“The compassion from the community has been uplifting,” Dennis says. “And I’m happy to report that now almost all of my employees have been able to find work, and I’ve found someone to take over the school uniforms so the kids will be taken care of in the fall.”
Meanwhile, Dennis continues to ignore the eviction notice a little longer, as anyone who knows him would expect him to do. “I’ve got so many tuxes booked this month for prom that if I closed my doors now, hundreds of kids would be affected,” he says. “I can’t do that to them. Those are my kids.”