JOSEPH & FEISS CO. - The Encyclopedia of Cleveland History
JOSEPH & FEISS CO., an important part of Cleveland's garment industry, came from Meadville, PA, in 1845 as Koch & Loeb and set up a wholesale clothing store at 82 Superior St. The firm, run by Kaufman Koch, sold a general line of men's and boys clothing as well as piece goods to tailors. The company also sold its own brand of clothes, but manufacturing was contracted out to small ethnic shops. When the company began an internal manufacturing operation in 1897, the small shops were absorbed and their proprietors were employed as foremen and operators. After changing partners several times, the firm stabilized as Joseph & Feiss Co. in 1907. Isaac and MORITZ JOSEPH and Julius Feiss guided the business as it outgrew its location at 642-702 St. Clair St. and moved to a new factory at 2149 W. 53rd St. in 1920, the year the firm incorporated. Under its "Clothcraft" brand name, Joseph & Feiss heavily advertised its $15 blue serge suit as the "Model T" of the clothing industry, which provided a steady base of sales for the company until 1925. The company improved efficiency by introducing new methods, machines, and scientific management to improve its production and to cut costs. The company was unionized in March 1934 when the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America organized some 1,800 Joseph & Feiss workers after a brief strike. Union and management then negotiated a 10% wage increase for the workers.
In subsequent decades, the company diversified its lines of clothing. Joseph & Feiss merged with Phillips-Van Heusen Corp. in 1966 but retained its name and Cleveland operations, where it continued to produce and sell tailored men's apparel under the Cricketeer and Country Britches label. In 1980 it added tailored clothes for women to its line. Joseph & Feiss was acquired by Hugo Boss AG, a West German clothing and accessory firm, in 1989 and was made a division of its subsidiary, T.J.F.C. Inc. of New York.
In 1995 the company had 800 workers in the Cleveland area and plants on W. 53rd St., Tiedeman Rd., and a distribution center on Tiedeman Rd. The company also operated an outlet store at its W. 53rd St. location. The following year, facing stiff competition from lower-priced imports and a growing acceptance among Americans for casual clothing, Joseph & Feiss annouced that it would be discontinuing production of its Cricketeer and Country Britches labels and laying off over 200 workers. In 1997, Joseph & Feiss moved its remaining manufacturing operations from its W. 53rd St. plant to its distribution center on Tiedeman Road in BROOKLYN. Joseph & Feiss, and its nearly 450 employees, continues to produce suits, sport coats, and slacks for the upscale Hugo Boss brand. Joseph & Feiss's departure left vacant the massive facility on W. 53rd St.