All 250 Steve & Barry’s stores, including the Ann Arbor location on State Street, were scheduled to close by early 2009. The twenty-year-old chain’s rapid growth was based on a single idea: selling collegiate-licensed clothing for less than $10 to the college market. But then, in an ultimately misguided effort to reinvent itself, the company signed several celebrities, including Sarah Jessica Parker, to license their names to exclusive clothing lines. Unlike the cheap college wear, though, Parker’s line topped out at twenty bucks with tax. Sales went up, but profit margins went down. Throw in a terrible economy, and Steve & Barry’s sank under the weight of its own upscale aspirations—if you can call a $20 Sarah Jessica Parker denim jacket upscale.
Asked when exactly the State Street Steve & Barry’s would close, a store employee said he didn’t know for sure. “Whenever we run out of stock,” he said in mid-December. “And the shelves are pretty bare right now.”