David Hamer, whose sense of style led him to a career in menswear, dies at 85

David Hamer, middle, John Emacio and Larry Snyder are shown in this 1973 photo. (SR archives)

David Hamer was a sharp dresser, favoring tailored suits in black and gray. His ability to put an outfit together became the genesis for a 44-year career in menswear.

The owner of the former Hamer’s Men’s Stores died Monday at age 85.

The Spokane native opened his first clothing store in 1957 with a business partner at 9320 E. Sprague Ave. He was 24. Other locations followed in downtown Spokane, the Shadle and South Hill neighborhoods, local malls, Pullman and Coeur d’Alene.

“He was always the best dressed, no matter what,” said his daughter, Teresa Sadlowski. And he parlayed his fashion sense into a business that helped other men look good, too, said his wife, Susan Hamer.

Hamer’s was known for its individualized customer service, she said. The sales staff had charts of client’s measurements and clothing preferences. When new shipments came in, they called to alert customers about items they might be interested in.

Early on, Hamer’s Men’s Stores stocked private label suits, sports coats, cashmere sweaters and attire appropriate for cocktail parties and business meetings. Before the stores closed in 2001, Hamer had followed the trends to include casual clothing, such as jeans and leather jackets.

Women’s apparel was a short-lived experiment at Hamer’s.

“Our salesmen were professional haberdashers, so it was harder for them to sell women’s clothing,” Susan Hamer said.

Her husband also was a talented clothing buyer – able to anticipate trends and assemble pieces into collections, she said.

Hamer was born March 7, 1933, to Charles and Katherine Hamer. He attended Gonzaga University, but left to join the Army before he graduated. Later, he served on GU’s Board of Regents and was given an honorary degree.

Hamer met his wife at Behm’s Valley Creamery, where she worked at the lunch counter. She took an active role in Hamer’s Men’s Stores, managing the payroll, designing window displays and working in the rental tux department. The couple’s four children also worked at Hamer’s.

Hamer had strong views about what his three daughters should wear. Sadlowski recalled sneaking jeans out of the house and changing into them at school.

“He liked to see them dressed up,” Susan Hamer said.

Hamer was active in business and civic groups, volunteering with the Retail Committee of Expo ’74, the Spokane County Planning Commission, the Spokane Chamber of Commerce and House of Charity, among others.

Hamer’s sense of style persisted after his retirement. He liked to take his grandsons clothes shopping and let them rummage through his closet.

“If they found a crisp, white shirt they liked, he helped them pick out a tie to wear with it,” Sadlowski said.

Hamer’s Funeral Mass will be celebrated at 11 a.m. Sept. 15 at Sacred Heart Church, 219 E. Rockwood Blvd., with a reception following at Manito Golf & Country Club.