Bauman’s broadens its appeal under new ownership

Some wardrobe changes are underway at Bauman’s clothing store, the anchor of Mount Vernon’s downtown retail district since 1909.

New owners Olivia Cotton Randall ’13 and Josh Randall ’14 say their store still will be known for its men’s clothing and big and tall lines. What’s new is an expanded women’s department and a move into the college market. 

“People are excited that the store’s going to continue. They seem really excited about the women’s shop and the improvements we’re making,” Olivia says. “We’re moving forward and putting the business into the next generation of shoppers.” 

The young entrepreneurs learned of the unique business opportunity in a news article about Mike Smith (father of Jordan Smith ’12), who was looking for a buyer so he could retire.

“We talked to Mike for several months, went to the buyers market to see what it was like, and helped in the store on busier days,” Olivia says.

After careful consideration, they approached the bank and became the fourth owners of the 110-year-old business. Olivia brings retail experience plus the benefit of three costume construction and design courses at Cornell. She makes her own clothing and knits and crochets like her father, Cole Library director Greg Cotton. Josh brings experience with finances. After Cornell Josh was a bank examiner and now works as an internal auditor with the University of Iowa. Olivia earned a master’s degree and taught high school science.

Now Olivia handles day-to-day business at the store, located in its original corner brick building with a wraparound display window. Josh’s four-day week at the university allows him to work at Bauman’s on Fridays and some weekends. 

Their first change was remodeling the loft to create a women’s department with dressing rooms.

“There will be a lot more variety of women’s items,” says Olivia. “A lot of women come into the store shopping for their husbands and sons. They enjoy having a full experience, a cute section to shop in all the way to when they leave with a nice bag.” 

And yes, Bauman’s Basement stays.

“We’re still having Bauman’s Basement coffee,” Olivia says. “The guys come in every morning at 10 or so, and they sit in the basement and solve all the world’s problems. They keep their own cups on a shelf. [Cornell President] Jonathan Brand comes about once a month. I only venture down to give them treats.”