It now seems like a long time ago, but Gantos was a clothing institution for women in Grand Rapids, and many parts of the country. For nearly 70 years, the name Gantos said women's fashion.

It was actually founded by Lebanese immigrant Theodore Gantos, as a linen store. After the great depression, he and his wife, Haseebie, opened the first Gantos store in Grand Rapids in 1932. Over the next few decades, the store shifted gears to become a successful women's-wear boutique before going out of business in 2000.

In 1952, early stores in Grand Rapids were located in neighborhood business districts. As the company grew, outlets were generally mall based. Gantos also sold discounted merchandise at its Gantos Bargain Boutique locations in Grand Rapids and West Michigan.

In the late 1980s Forbes Magazine named the company as one of the fastest growing women's specialty retailers in the United States. As of early 1993 the company had some 163 stores from coast to coast.

But, in late 1993 the company announced bankruptcy reorganization, closing 50 stores between 1993 and 1994. A slow down in the retail apparel market and ill-conceived merchandising rollouts were blamed for causing the company tailspin. Despite efforts over the next several years to reverse fortunes, including fresh management, moving its headquarters to Stamford, Connecticut and opening new stores, the company ultimately could not turn a profit.

In late 1999 Gantos announced it would liquidate its remaining 114 stores in 24 states, and by 2000, it was all over.

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