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Hannibal Courier - Post - Hannibal, MO
  • Age means nothing to uniform shop owner

  • No one need try to convince Rita Koch Overfelt that it is time to retire – she will be 96 years old on Wednesday, March 26, but she has no plans to close Yore Uniform Shop, which she has owned and operated for the past 41 years.
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  • No one need try to convince Rita Koch Overfelt that it is time to retire – she will be 96 years old on Wednesday, March 26, but she has no plans to close Yore Uniform Shop, which she has owned and operated for the past 41 years.
    One of 10 children of William and Leona Koch, Rita has just two remaining siblings, two brothers, and both want her to retire, she said. “I just looked at them and said no. I’m not going to retire.”
    Why should she, she added, when “all my classmates are dead.”
    “I have no intention to retire,” she declared, although the past winter was challenging. “This was the worst year I’ve ever had, weather-wise,” she said. At times she was closed for one day, and once she closed for a week.
    Regarding her family, Rita said that there were many Koches when she was being reared, and “everybody knows the Koch kids.”
    Her dad had a grocery store at Third and Bird streets, she said, and “Uncle Henry had Cookie’s Tire Shop on Mark Twain Avenue.”
    As the oldest of the family’s five daughters, Rita raised five of her siblings after her mother died of a brain tumor at age 49. Rita had been married for just a year, and said one brother helped her raise the younger ones.
     
    Now her sisters are all deceased, and her two remaining brothers live elsewhere, but “my nieces visit me all the time,” she said
     
    First sold only
    white uniforms
     
    Her uniform shop first opened on St. Mary’s Avenue near St. Mary’s Pharmacy, in 1972. It was then moved to its current location at 403 Broadway two years later. Her sister, Mary Jasper, helped Rita by bringing her first stock of uniforms to Hannibal.
    At that time uniforms and lab jackets worn in healthcare were all white, but within a few years that changed and now they are bright colors.
    When uniforms were all white, she joked, “if I had (offered them in) colors, they would have thought I was selling my own clothes.”
    One of her first customers was the Hannibal Country Club. She began selling uniforms in colors to the waitresses, who wore rainbow colors, yellow, pink and blue. “Bill Murphy, my brother-in-law, was a member and got me their business,” Rita said.
    When other local stores tried selling uniforms, Rita said, people told her she would have to close, but she stayed open and eventually the others realized they were not making enough profit.
    Page 2 of 2 - She sells pants and tops separately but “they match them up,” she said. Her sizes run from Xsmall to 5X, from size 2 to 52.
    “I sell more tops than pants,” she explained.
    At some hospitals, each department wears a different color top, she said.
    In doctors’ offices, “A lot just wear colored smocks,” she explained.
    The doctors still come in to have their white lab jackets fitted before they are bought by a hospital.
    White uniforms also are sold to nursing schools, such as Hannibal-LaGrange University. “I just had a class of 24 (from HLGU),” she said.
    She enjoys meeting the nurses, noting “I like them when they are real peppy. … It takes a special person to be a nurse.
    “I have five nieces who are nurses,” Rita continued. “The one (sister) who started me had three daughters, and two are nurses.”
    She orders uniforms from catalogs, and said “by now I know what my customers will like.”
    Cherokee is her most popular brand uniform, and she also sells White Swan and Barco.
    She also sells shoes made for people on their feet all day.
    “You meet a lot of nice people, and I’d like to thank all my customers who have helped me to stay this long,” Rita said. “I appreciate their business all those years.”
     

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