What Happened? Remembering Max 10 Retail Stores in Michigan
Every day that I drive into work at the WKFR studios off Gull Road I’m reminded of the lost legacy of the Max 10 Family Fashions discount clothing stores. What was once the highest performing store in the chain, the former location at 1904 Gull Road in Kalamazoo now sits empty and in disrepair, a reminder glory days gone by.
If you lived in West Michigan prior to 2014 then you know that Max 10 was a chain of discount clothing stores prevalent throughout the area. No town was too big or too small to have a Max 10 store—we even had one in the modest town of Allegan where I grew up! A memory I had all but forgotten until my mom reminded me of it.
The Origins of Max 10
Max 10 Family Fashions got its start in Schoolcraft, MI when Ed Bernard, the owner and president of Bermo Enterprises, began selling off-price and overstock clothing items. What originally started as an annual warehouse sale grew to 29 retail locations across Michigan, Indiana, and Illinois. Bermo Enterprises even operated a similar chain called Puff’s Family Fashions which had eight locations in Arkansas and Texas in addition to several BW Jeans Co. stores in West Michigan, and there was also a Max 10 spinoff called Frayed that was specific to Kalamazoo.
At its peak Max 10 carried brands like Sketchers, Vera Bradley, Levi’s, and Case IH, and even manufactured their own brands like Island Joe and Lucky Punch. Being a wholesale retailer, Max 10 was able to offer their clothing at a fraction of the price with most items priced at $10 or less. The chain even supplied stores like T.J. Maxx, Burlington Coat Factory, and Tractor Supply Co. with their inventory.
What Went Wrong?
In 2012 Bermo Enterprises filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy due to declining sales volume and the increasing rent prices of their retail locations. Bernard told MLive, "We're not talking profits and losses, we're talking about how to get out of retail leases."
In order to pay their creditors, Bermo Enterprises quickly closed all retail locations and liquidated their inventory to online outlets like Overstock.com, Sears.com, and Amazon. After 38 years, Bermo held their annual warehouse sale in Schoolcraft one final time in 2014 before shuttering their doors forever. Eventually Bermo Enterprises fell out of operation completely and if you visit BermoEnterprises.com the domain is up for sale. Now the handful of storefronts that sit empty, like the Gull Road location, are the only reminders of the local fashion house. RIP Max 10.