His first partner was Reuben
Schwartz, who has since died. In
the 1970s, he met up with Agosti-
no Basso and, two years later, Sol
Epstein. ("Bassonova," Crown
Cloak's distribution company,
takes its name from the combined
names of Basso and the "nov"
part of Lisnov.) All partners oth-
er than Mr. Lisnov have since re-
tired or died.
The business' home these days
is the old Flamingo building, near
Seven Mile and Gratiot in De-
troit. Constructed in the 1920s,
it started out as a movie theater.
Then it became an ice-skating
rink. Later, it was converted into
a banquet hall before Mr. Lisnov
opened it as a clothing factory.
"The first 10 years people dat-
ed themselves by what they
asked for," he says. "If they want-
ed the theater, we knew they
were senior citizens. If they asked
for the skating rink, they had to
be middle-aged. And if they want-
ed a banquet hall, they were
Bassonova was in its heyday
in the 1980s, when Mr. Lisnov
and his partners produced three
styles of pants, always the com-
pany staple, and brought in $6
million a year. There were times
when the company was growing
by 20 percent annually and had
11,000 accounts nationwide.
"Then we started to slide," he
says. "One by one, we closed up."
Crown Cloak, like other busi-
nesses of its kind, just couldn't
compete with department stores
that offered a large variety of
clothing that always came at a
Today, four of the five leading
store chains in this country sell
clothing — the kind of affordable,
mass-produced outfits the ma-
jority of Americans purchase. Cit-
ed in the 1995 Standard and
Poors, the top five general mer-
chandise chains in the United
States are Wal-Mart, K-Mart,
Sears and JC Penney (Kroger
also is included).
Though it's unlikely Bassono-
va will see in coming years the
kind of money it did during the
1980s, Mr. Lisnov says the corn-
pany now makes 500 pairs of
pants a week and pulled in $1
million in 1994. He's confident it
will do even better in 1995.
Americans, Mr. Lisnov be-
lieves, are finding their way back
to the concept of a specialty shop
where they can buy quality
clothes made in the United
"Take a look at this," he says,
taking an order sheet from a store
in Arizona. "This is one woman,
one, who wants 38 pairs of our
pants (which sell for $130 each)."
She wants them in black, in
brown, in blue, in green.
Mr. Lisnov picks up a pair of
Bassonova linen pants and runs
his hand down the leg. "What
makes these what they are is the
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