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The Garment District in Cambridge is giving itself a makeover

Posted by Brock Parker  October 13, 2011 09:34 AM

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Known for putting customers in funky clothing, vintage attire and Halloween costumes, the Garment District in Cambridge is now in the process of giving itself a long-needed makeover.

The store at 200 Broadway in Kendall Square, which also houses the Garment District-owned Boston Costume, is renovating the exterior of the historic but dilapidated soap factory where it has been for 25 years.

Chris Cassel, president of the Garment District Inc., said the siding of the building is being replaced possibly for the first time since the 1960s and a wall that was heavily damaged about 15 years ago by a forklift in the store has been repaired.

The Garment District’s building dates back to the 1890s and was once the home of Lysander Kemp & Sons Soapworks, but has housed used clothing stores since the 1940s and bargain-hunters still flock to the old factory for deals.

The facelift has been needed for years, Cassel said, but the work was delayed when he had to raise money to buy out ownership of the building in 2006 to keep it from being demolished. After that, the recession also threw a few wrinkles into the clothing business’s attempts to borrow money for the renovation, Cassel said.

Cassel said he suspects that some of the business’s loyal bargain-hunters will see the renovations and say the store has sold out. But the business model hasn’t changed and Cassel said the renovation is being done so the business can remain in the spot for another 20 years.

“Some people are like that place is a dump and you need to fix it,” Cassel said. “Other people, they don’t want you to be too upscale. They want to know they are getting a bargain and they feel they are getting a bargain if they are in a place that doesn’t look like it’s spending a lot of money on the inside.”

Cassel said the renovation work is hundreds of thousands of dollars, but will pause for the last half of October as Halloween shoppers head to the store to buy their costumes.
“For us, it’s our Christmas,” Cassel said.

The work will resume in November when Cassel said the front exterior wall of the Garment District will get new siding.

“We’re going to look a lot different,” he said.

Brock Parker can be reached at brock.globe@gmail.com.

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