Gary Michael’s Clothiers prides itself on creating a tailored and personal experience for all its customers.
In 1983, Gary Michael’s Clothiers was opened in downtown Hastings by Michael Nevrivy and Gary Novotny as a men’s specialty store and a tuxedo rental department.
Years later, in 1993, a ladies department was added to the store.
The current co-owners Trish Ludemann and Tammy Valentin joined the company during this time.
Ludeman was hired to be the buyer and manager of the ladies department. Valentin was hired to help out in the booking department and in 1996 was moved to sales.
They’ve been a part of the store ever since.
In 2009 they became co-owners and not just workers of Gary Micheal’s.
As Gary Micheal’s has grown so have Ludeman and Valentin. They have truly immersed themselves in the store.
“We do everything from the accounting, merchandising, buying, marketing, professional fittings and personal shopping,” Valentin said.
They said that Gary Micheal’s has things that would be hard to find in a big department store, whether that be specialty women’s clothing, specialty men’s outerwear or accessories that can’t be found elsewhere.
“There’ s pretty much something for everyone tucked into a little corner of the store,” Ludeman said.
They describe how people are surprised by the sheer amount of options from which they have to choose.
Not only do they offer a wide variety of apparel choices, but they also can have things tailored, as well.
“A lot of our clothing, our men’s clothing especially, can be tailored,” Valentin said.
They have two tailors who work hard to make sure that every job is done well. Once they’re done, it truly becomes a tailored-to-fit garment.
Having become so immersed in the business, the two co-owners try to give each customer a personalized experience by working directly with them to try to fill their needs.
“We kind of take what we learn from our customers to market with us and that helps us decide what to buy,” Ludeman said.
They listen to what their customers want to see and when they’re buying clothing lines and items for the store, they keep their customers’ opinions in mind.
“We really do care about our customers, and we care that they look good,” Valentin said.
They get to know their customers, and this helps them to help their customers pick things out.
“With us having the knowledge of our customer base it makes that part really easy,” Valentin said.
In other words, they’re not just servicing random clientele.
“Our customers are also our friends,” she said.
Community members helped usher holiday cheer into downtown Hastings during a Christmas season like no other with a Holiday Stocking Decorating Contest.
Organized by the Hastings Downtown Center Association, the contest was a way to celebrate the holidays without the traditional gatherings that would group people together in the midst of a pandemic.
For Rickie Crandell of Inland, it was a way to provide encouragement to the community.
“It was to pick people up,” she said. “This year has been a sad, depressing year. I did a Nativity scene to remind people that there is hope.”
Crandell won the individual award with her stocking featuring a painted Nativity scene.
Participants purchased the 40-inch wooden stockings for $5 apiece to offset material costs. Nearly 75 wooden stockings were decorated and displayed in downtown storefronts. Community members voted on their five favorites within three categories: business, individual and nonprofit. The winners were announced on Dec. 3.
Crandell works at Calico Cottage and teaches barn quilt classes. In addition to her own entry, she helped decorate stockings for Calico Cottage and Julie’s Xpressions.
“I like to paint; I like to draw,” she said. “I used the same paints that I used for my barn quilt classes. It was something different to do.”
Decorating a stocking was a little outside the normal for members of Hastings Fire and Rescue, who won the nonprofit category with the design of a firefighter’s boot etched with the department’s logo.
Capt. Darin Clark said they were surprised to win the award, a contest he entered on the spur of the moment.
Clark said the firefighters usually decorate a tree with their families at the Hastings Museum. When the Festival of Trees was canceled this year due to the pandemic, Clark happened upon the stocking contest and decided to give it a try.
Firefighter Tyler Anderson routed the Maltese Cross with the logo into the wood, and Clark’s family painted it.
“It’s something we thought would be fun to do,” Clark said. “The $50 prize went to buy stuff for the Present Patrol.”
The Hastings Tribune won the business award with a personification of the Grinch with his green face and Santa hat on top.
Keri Schunk, graphic designer at the Tribune, crafted the stocking, saying the character seemed appropriate given current events.
“The pandemic and all of 2020 has kinda called for that,” she said. “I also wanted to step away from trying to make it an abstract use of a stocking.”
She put an estimated 15 hours into the project. She sanded and painted both sides so it could be displayed double sided, adding a piece of wood to create the pouting lip and finding a way to make the hat stay upright.
“It was fun, and I enjoyed doing it,” she said. “It’ not something I always make time to do. In the end, it’s always rewarding.”
Schunk said she was surprised by the win, especially considering the quality of the competing entries. She also was impressed by the number of businesses and organizations that participated.
“Something like this brings us together,” she said.
Tammy Orthmann, director of the Hastings Downtown Center Association, said organizers are looking to continue the stocking contest in the future. They were disappointed by not being able to host the Celebration of Lights this year but felt the contest helped engage the community in another manner.
She said they learned a lot and have ideas to improve the contest next year.
“We had a lot of compliments from people who didn’t know about the stocking program,” she said. “They really enjoyed going around and looking at all of them. There was just a huge interest in it.”
And ye, beneath life’s crushing load,
Whose forms are bending low,
Who toil along the climbing way
With painful steps and slow,
Look now! for glad and golden hours
come swiftly on the wing.
O rest beside the weary road,
And hear the angels sing!
— from “It Came Upon the Midnight Clear,” by Edmund Sears
Like so many of you, I grew up understanding deep in my marrow that holidays are family time.
Up through my high school days, Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter Sunday brought dinner either at our home on the farm south of Norman or at my aunt and uncle’s just down the road. In my mind’s eye, I still can picture every available table set for the meal, the long rows of platters and bowls filled with food, and — most of all — my grandparents walking through the door.
Grandpa Chris always wore a suit and tie. On Christmas Day, Grandma Sarah brought plum pudding — a nod to the English dimension of our heritage. (Part English or not, most of us preferred the alternative pie with Cool Whip.) My Grandma Derieg was there, too — a widow by then, who was made an honorary Raun for every occasion she cared to attend.
After an appropriate lull following Christmas dinner, my Uncle Del Kopf would have to duck out for a short time to feed cattle. Then, everyone would gather in the living room for a massive gift exchange and music. Grandpa would pull his harmonica out of his breast pocket and play a number or two. Del would dust off his accordion for a couple of tunes. My sisters Carol and Betsy would play “Go Tell It on the Mountain” together on the guitar and upright string bass. Then, someone would pass out leaflets and the family would sing the old traditional Christmas carols in four-part harmony: “O Come, All Ye Faithful”; “The First Noel”; “Silent Night” — including a verse in German, warbled by my grandmother just as she had learned it as a girl, when the minister from the German Presbyterian church in Campbell would come to her rural neighborhood on Sunday afternoons to preach to the English speakers who shared his Reformed theology.
To me, it was the greatest hour of the year, and it was sacrosanct. I wouldn’t have wanted to be anywhere else in the world just then — in that warm living room, down on the farm in Kearney County’s Osco neighborhood, elbow to elbow with the people I loved the most as the Christmas sun sank in the western sky beyond the endless fields of corn stubble.
I mention all this not because my memories of family celebrations are more important than anyone else’s. I bring it up, rather, to make the point that so many of us have deep memories of those times gone by — and how, in many cases, our elders play such a central role in them.
While my grandparents presided, for lack of a better verb, over the family celebrations I remember, my mom and my Aunt Joan were the ones who really made things happen — up in the middle of the night roasting turkeys and baking pies and cleaning their houses for company.
All my grandparents are long gone now. Sadly, so are Joan and Del. And this Christmas, because of the public health concerns that accompany the novel coronavirus disease, COVID-19, my mom and dad will not be joining any of us for a holiday meal — nor will the extended family be gathering at all. Like so many of you, we are mostly just keeping to ourselves, biding our time, waiting, hoping and praying for safer days ahead, with vaccines deployed and a firmer grasp on microscopic perils that threaten havoc and suffering in our homes, workplaces and communities.
This holiday season, I have a message for all the elders of all our families and congregations and communities who have been shut in for months now, or restricted in where they go and what they do. They should be at the center of festive gatherings in homes and places of worship across our region and beyond, but cannot because of circumstances not quite like anything seen in any of our lifetimes. Instead, many are lonely and sad and discouraged.
To all of them, I say:
Although it might feel like it, you have NOT lost your families and friends. You have NOT been forgotten. If we have to visit you through a door or window or on an iPad, it’s not because we want it that way. It’s driving us crazy, too.
Furthermore, if it seems at times like we “younger folks” are largely going about our business these days while you remain more or less closed away from the world, it’s not that we are disregarding you or pushing you aside. Rather, it’s because you have taught us how to work and given us the tools to try to keep this world turning in tough times.
We’re doing the best we can, trying to keep the faith we learned at your knee and have made our own because of your example. This year and every year, we are grateful to have you in our lives.
Although we may spend our time apart, we remain united in faith, hope and love. And in the spirit that binds all generations past and present, no one of us is ever truly alone.
Andy Raun is editor and news director at the Hastings Tribune. Contact him at 402-303-1419 or email@example.com.