Family owned clothing and tailoring stores since 1950
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Hickey Freeman

Hickey Freeman History

On a brisk autumn day in 1899, four young men talked quietly about starting their own business. Their idea was a simple one: Make ready-to-wear suits that compared favorably with custom tailoring.

Ready-to-wear clothing had been available for many years, but the man who wanted to dress well continued to have his clothes made by custom tailors. Somewhere between inexpensive off-the-rack garments and high-priced hand-tailoring existed an opportunity for a new enterprise.

The Founders

In 1899, Jacob Freeman was 29 years old and Jeremiah Hickey was 32. They worked for a men's clothing company, Wile, Brickner & Wile in Rochester, New York. Mr. Hickey later recalled his early days in the clothing business at the age of 19: "My first salary was $4.00 a week. ...I made it a habit to always put something away, for I had ambitions to go into business for myself."

Hickey and Freeman became close friends. The decision to start their own business in 1899 was precipitated by an offer of a better job in Boston for Hickey and in Chicago for Freeman. Neither wanted to leave Rochester and both felt ready to test their abilities in a business of their own.George A. Brayer was a Wile, Brickner & Wile accountant; Thomas Mahon was a businessman in the leather trade with a penchant for selling to large retailers. Together, the four men pooled $25,000 and opened the Hickey, Freeman & Mahon Company.

The young entrepreneurs occupied three stories of a building in the clothing district of Rochester. Within a year, Thomas Mahon returned to his original leather business and the firm was renamed Hickey & Freeman Company.Business was brisk at the turn of the century. After purchasing two small clothing makers in Rochester - Michael Kolb & Son and the Beeckel-Baum Leopold Company - the founders once again renamed their organization. The year was 1908 and the Hickey Freeman Company was establishing a reputation as a producer of superior quality clothing for the modern businessman.

Tailoring Under One Roof

Within six years and several moves to larger quarters, Hickey Freeman constructed a three-story, 77,000 square foot factory where all manufacturing took place under one roof. The company officers selected a site in northeast Rochester because it was near the homes of many of its employees.

It was common practice in the early 1900s for clothing manufacturers to engage many small tailor shops. Garments were cut and assembled in different locations and then brought together for shipping. Hickey Freeman's single-factory idea was innovative for the times.

The new "open air" factory featured large work spaces lighted by floor-to-ceiling windows, natural ventilation, lunch rooms, an infirmary, sanitary rest rooms and pleasant working conditions for hundreds of tailors and seamstresses. It became known to its supporters as the "Temple to Fine Tailoring".

The benefits of manufacturing under one roof extended to the quality of the garments. Clothing production was set up in assembly-line fashion because an individual tailor might be especially proficient at setting a sleeve but not so adept at stitching the collar or rolling a lapel. By assigning specific tailoring functions to those who performed them best, the finished garment was far better than anyone tailor could have achieved alone.

An Enduring Idea

Superior quality in materials and workmanship was the foundation of Hickey Freeman's identity in the marketplace. The phrase, "Keep The Quality Up" was adopted as the company motto. It was carved into the oak entryway and painted in large block letters on the support beams throughout the factory as a constant reminder to employees and visitors that Hickey Freeman held this ideal as its constant focus.

A continuous supply of skilled tailors was another concern of company management. Men and women were recruited from large U.S. cities and from abroad. Hickey Freeman would help sponsor new immigrants to the States, provide them with job training, and offer American citizenship classes at the factory. Over the years, thousands of men and women have become naturalized American citizens as a direct result of Hickey Freeman's special employee programs.


Despite the dramatic changes in fashion, merchandising and manufacturing during the past one hundred years, Hickey Freeman remains the one clothing maker men rely upon for business wear, formal wear and sportswear of the highest caliber.

It is the fabric, the fit, the finish, and the feeling that distinguishes Hickey Freeman as truly unique. A balance of skilled hand work and technological innovation combined with silhouettes of contemporary style and elegance make the Hickey Freeman name synonymous with superior quality.