By Bill Buell
SCHENECTADY- Peter Musler loves talking about his family’s 90-plus years in the women’s clothing business, and while he’d love to celebrate the company’s century mark in 2026, he’s thinking it might not happen.
“I’ve been doing this for 40 years, and while I have a son, he has a wonderful job in Tampa, Florida,” said Musler, a life-long Schenectady resident whose store, “Musler’s,” is at 1726 Union Street in Schenectady. “I never encouraged him or discouraged him about the family business, but he never really showed an interest. So unfortunately, when I’m gone the business is probably gone, too.”
While selling the company to an outsider is a possibility, that option isn’t a satisfying one for Musler.
“If I sell it, the value is not in the Musler name any longer,” he said. “They could buy my store and my customers but it just wouldn’t be the same, so I don’t know if that will happen. Celebrating 90 years last year was a lot of fun, but I don’t know if we’ll get to 100.”
Musler’s was started by Musler’s grandfather, Jules Musler, back inside the Parker Building in downtown Schenectady and was accessed through the arcade at Proctors.
“My grandfather signed a lease in December of 1926 a month before Proctors opened,” said Musler. “We were there until 1991. Before we moved we advertised in the playbill as ‘the longest-running performance in Proctors’ history.’”
Musler’s father, Jay, began working in the family business in 1947 and oversaw the move to its Upper Union Street location in 1991. He died just four years ago.
“It was always kind of pre-ordained that I would follow my father,” said Musler. “I went college in Philadelphia and was planning on working for a big chain store to see what they could teach me and then eventually come home. I ended up working for a chain of record stores, but it was all about customer service and people skills, which is exactly what this business is about.”
Musler’s success, according to its owner, is because it doesn’t try to do too much, and they know they’re customers.
“We have a niche, we are a specialty store, and we don’t try to compete with the big department stores,” he said. “A lot of women come see us because they have great difficulty shopping in a big department store. I try to have things the big stores don’t, and we realize that not everyone is 5-foot-10 and 105 pounds with the taste of a 27-year-old. That’s not my demographic.”
Except for the holiday season, Musler’s is pretty much a one-man show.
“I do everything myself, and while we don’t have a big alteration shop like we used to, I do have access to people who do alterations for me,” he said. “The industry has turned upside down so you do have to change. We don’t sell any outerwear anymore at all, and much of our business is novelty jackets.”
Novelty jackets, says Musler, can keep businesswomen looking sharp and different each day.
“I’ll bet you three or four times a week women will wear black bottoms to work or at least some solid color,” said Musler. “And women get tired of wearing the same blouse or shirt with the same pair of pants. So the novelty jackets are a bit refreshing too them. You get more bang for your buck.”
In 2004, the store moved a few doors from its original location on Upper Union Street, and Musler says his current address will remain the same for as long as he runs the store.
“I like to say that the Upper Union Street neighborhood is sort of like our answer to Saratoga,” he said. “It isn’t Saratoga Springs, but it has a lot of nice eating places and other small businesses. We all get along, we’re good neighbors. We take care of our property and take pride in it.”
By Bill Buell