Perspectives from ISB

Nemer Kaleel arrived at Ellis Island from his native Lebanon in 1905, with nothing but his dreams. The 17-year-old Nemer left Beirut on a cattle boat and eventually settled in Spring Valley. He scraped up enough money to buy a horse and buggy, and the framework of a family business was born – Kaleel’s Country Peddler.

In 1939, the Kaleel family moved from Spring Valley to Earlville, the site of the family’s first storefront. The focus of the business was men’s clothing. Nemer’s three sons chose the family business path. In July 2014, the Kaleels established a presence in Dixon, but the operations quickly outgrew the site thanks in part to plans for the addition of a silkscreening and embroidery business.

Two more generations of Kaleels are running Kaleel’s Clothing & Printing in Dixon. While the printing business is growing, the core remains men’s clothing and accessories.

As more of the apparel industry transitions from storefronts to websites, the allure of the Kaleels’ old-school niche becomes more enticing for some shoppers. Nemer’s son, George said he’s never used a computer at his Amboy store, and he doesn’t think he’s missing much. He prefers to maintain an intimate experience for customers – the kind that can be hard to find in today’s retail world.

He’ll go through the store’s huge fabric books to custom-design the perfect suit or tuxedo. Customers still get catalogs, and many place special orders to get exactly what they want. The business has a Facebook page, and a website is in the works, but the family business is still rooted in the belief that good service never goes out of style.

“People appreciate that there’s someone to wait on them, and actually help them pick out something,” George’s son, Mark, said.

Source: Eggemeier, Pam.,, Nov. 21, 2016;

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