The upscale women’s clothing retailer Doncaster has shut down after 87 years in business.
The Rutherfordton-based company sold high-end women’s clothing and accessories online and via direct sales through a network of “consultants” who sold goods out of their homes and at parties and trunk shows. Designer-quality dresses from Doncaster would run between $300 and $500.
Marguerite Rupar, who started DoncasterCharlotte from her home in 1994, said the owners of the company shut down without notice on Feb. 27. In an email to customers this week, Rupar said the closure was tied to “cash flow issues and the inability to convince our investor group to continue.”
“I felt like somebody died,” Rupar told the Observer. “It took me a few days to regroup. And I also need to take care of my customers.”
She added that she is still working to iron out issues such as returns and refunds for some of her customers.
Doncaster’s parent, Tanner Companies LLC, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in January 2017, according to court documents. Last week, a judge approved converting the case to Chapter 7, which indicates the liquidation of assets.
“We are sorry to say that after 87 years we have closed for business. It has been a privilege to serve you,” a message on the company’s voicemail said. A Doncaster representative could not be reached.
The Doncaster concept started in 1931, as the Doncaster Collar and Shirt Co. in Rutherfordton, about 70 miles west of Charlotte. With encouragement from the Junior League of Charlotte, the business eventually evolved into direct sales. These Junior League members were the original “Doncaster consultants,” providing personal service and in-home shopping experiences.
The idea quickly spread to other parts of the country. Doncaster had about 2,000 consultants at the time it closed last week, Rupar said.
Former N.C. Commerce Secretary Sharon Decker led Doncaster from 1999-2005.