Molnar’s has been Helping Rochester Dress to Impress since 1964

A revolution and a chance meeting with a local entrepreneur were the forces that brought Hungarian-born tailor Frank Molnar to Rochester 52 years ago. Molnar opened his menswear shop on Rochester’s Main Street in 1964 at a time when the standard work uniform for businessmen was the three-piece suit. Molnar possessed the requisite skills to build a successful family firm from the local demand for quality men’s clothing.

Frank Molnar - Courtesy of the Molnar family

Frank Molnar – Courtesy of the Molnar family

In his native country, Molnar was apprenticed to a tailor at the age of 13 and eventually became a master tailor. In the fall of 1956, a grassroots revolt against the Soviet occupation of Hungary, and the Soviets’ brutal military response, plunged the country into war. In early 1957, Frank Molnar and his wife, Margaret, left Hungary with many other refugees fleeing the conflict. The couple made a treacherous winter crossing of the Atlantic on the U.S. troop carrier USNS General Nelson M. Walker to reach their new home. They settled in Detroit, where Frank Molnar found his training as a European-style tailor to be in great demand, as American customers especially respected the skill of Italian and Hungarian tailors.

While attending a wedding, Frank Molnar had a fortuitous meeting with jeweler Ernest Heller, a former Detroit resident who had recently opened a retail store in downtown Rochester. The two men discussed business opportunities, and Molnar learned that Rochester was an up-and-coming area that would be a desirable location for a clothing store.

Molnar’s Custom Clothiers was first located in leased quarters in the Hills Theatre building at 416 S. Main St. The store featured fine men’s clothing and specialized in “big and tall” suits; and tuxedo sales and rentals were offered as a sideline. Four years later, in September 1968, Gebert’s Hardware closed when its owners retired. The Geberts sold their building to Frank Molnar and he moved his business across the street to the store’s present location at 405 S. Main St.

Molnar's in 2016 - photo by Deborah Larsen

Molnar’s in 2016 – photo by Deborah Larsen

Auto company managers and executives were Molnar’s core clientele during his first decade in business in Rochester. Many of the “Big Three” auto executives lived in the area and required a closet full of three-piece suits at the ready. But in the mid-1970s, Molnar sensed that a permanent shift to less formal work attire in American offices was beginning to take hold. When he had first opened his business, no man who valued his career would have considered a work uniform of blue jeans and a sport coat over an open-collared shirt. As it became increasingly apparent that casual dress would soon be the new normal, Molnar decided to transition his business to serve the formal wear market exclusively.

When Frank Molnar first opened his doors in Rochester in 1964, there were two other quality menswear stores located on Main Street: Carpenter’s and Mitzelfeld’s – more than half a century later, only Molnar’s remains. Frank Molnar died in 2000 and the second generation of his family now runs the store. Specializing in tuxedo and eveningwear rentals – meeting the challenge of sustaining a family business in a changing marketplace – Molnar’s continues to serve the Rochester community in the proud tradition that its founder established.

About Deborah J. Larsen

Deborah J. Larsen recently retired after 34 years as local history librarian at Mount Clemens Public Library. She currently serves as the research chairperson for the Rochester-Avon Historical Society, and writes on a wide range of local history topics.

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