The Century Club 2016
From linen services to packaging and construction companies, and from selling furs to machine bearings, DBusiness pays tribute to companies that are 100 years old or more.
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Jacob Bricker opened his first store on farmer street in detroit in 1916. it later became bricker-tunis furs and moved to livernois and seven mile before moving to west bloomfield township.
NOT RIGHT FOR BARBIE
Arthur Bricker leaned toward the television when Aretha Franklin sat down at the piano to sing during the December telecast of the 2015 Kennedy Center Honors. The Queen of Soul was wearing a fur coat. Was it from his shop?
“You know, I did work with Aretha for years,” says Bricker, owner of Bricker-Tunis Furs in West Bloomfield Township, “and that (coat) was not one of mine.”
But so many others were, and are. In addition to Franklin, Bricker has draped furs over the shoulders of the Motown music label’s elite, athletes, the gospel-singing Winans family, politicians, the actresses on the “Dallas” and “Dynasty” television shows, and even Barbie — although that one caused a stir.
The shop sold about 50 Barbie-sized mink coats with matching headbands ($240 for the set) in the mid-1990s, but it pulled the remainder of the furs designed for the statuesque blonde off its shelves when Mattel, which had no connection with the company, threatened legal action. “We would not have Barbie wear real fur,” a Mattel spokeswoman sniffed to The New York Times in 1997. “She’s a friend to animals.”
The Barbie kerfuffle was just a blip compared to some of the truly difficult periods for the business, which started life in 1916 on Farmer Street in Detroit and operated there for 45 years.
Jacob's son, arthur bricker, at age 76, continues to run the store.
Bricker’s father, Jack Bricker, the company’s founder, told him the business wasn’t that badly hurt during the Great Depression because the Fords and Fishers still came in to buy furs. Asked about how business was during the global financial crisis in 2008, Bricker says: “It wasn’t wonderful, but we’re still here.” He says the company posted $1 million-$2 million in revenue in 2015.
Bricker-Tunis also survived the 1967 Detroit riots, when the shop was located on the Avenue of Fashion, at Livernois Avenue and Seven Mile Road near the University of Detroit Mercy. Bricker explains that friends called to tip him off about the trouble brewing in the city. It wasn’t long before station wagons lined up outside the store and were stuffed with furs to be driven safely to Bricker’s home.
When asked to look forward rather than back, the 76-year-old Bricker instead ticked off the names of other Detroit fashion brick-and-mortar stores that are memories now: Hughes & Hatcher, Saks Fifth Avenue, Hudson’s, Kern’s, Crowley’s, and others.
Bricker says he’s not sure what will happen in the future to the business he took over when he was in his early 20s, which today has seven employees. He has a son and a daughter, but neither one wants to take over.
As Bricker reminisces in his office, which is filled with original art and memorabilia, he peers through a one-way glass into his shop on Orchard Lake Road, where he’s been for 42 years. He excuses himself abruptly as a customer arrives. For Bricker, customers always come first.