Main Street loses Rottles store after 70 years

Madeline Isham, Managing Editor

Rottles Department store has been a part of Auburn since its opening in 1939. Located on East Main Street across from Comstock’s Bindery & Bookshop and down the street from the Rainbow Cafe, downtown Auburn and Rottles are inseparable concepts.

“In the late sixties, Main Street in Auburn had just about everything you needed. There was Massey’s Grocery, Montgomery Wards catalog store, Western Auto (auto parts and more), JC Penney’s, Kasper’s Apparel, Weese’s Jewelry and of course, Rottles,” said Mayor of Auburn, Nancy Backus.

However, the beloved business is scheduled to permanently close at the end of June after over seven decades of serving the community.

Rottles is currently owned by brothers Jim and John Rottle who have both worked for the store full time since 1982. Before then, the store was owned by their father, Don Rottle.

“This store has been a part of my life for the last 38 years,” said co-manager Jim Rottle.

Jim Rottle graduated from Auburn High School in 1973 and continues to support the school by hiring students looking for work through Community Lab. Rottles also supplies Auburn High’s band and choir uniforms.

“There is probably not a non-profit organization in our community that hasn’t benefitted from their generosity. They have donated clothing, jewelry and gift certificates to many worthy causes, and have been active board members in non-profits and civic organizations,” said Mayor Backus.

But for the Rottles brothers, “It’s time to move on,” and pass the location on to a business who can help develop downtown Auburn. In addition, the wood mill which supplies material for the lettermans jackets has relocated to the MidWest.

“It’s been gratifying to cater to all the age groups that we serve,” said Rottles manager John Rottle.

The department store specializes in men and women’s clothing. Over the years, their inventory has included products from brands Tommy Bahama, Cutter and Buck, Harvey’s Handbags, SAS and several more.

In addition to clothing, Rottles offers in house tailoring, shoe fittings, jewelry, suit rentals for men and the legendary lettermans jackets, until June.

Junior Celine Collins first ordered her lettermans jacket as a freshman.

“The guy there even went to Auburn so he is always really helpful and happy when a student comes in,” said junior Celine Collins. “They knew about what stuff is going on in Auburn so they’re a little more helpful with figuring out what to put on my lettermans.”

Collins’ jacket includes patches for robotics, track, volleyball and the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association.

With Rottles gone from Auburn, “It won’t seem like home… Auburn has a different feel than any other city. Auburn is just like a home and you want to stick with it and support it,” said Collins.

The jackets tailored by Rottles are made from the Pendleton Wood Mills of Oregon and entirely custom to the owner ordering the jackets. Rottes sells lettermans jackets to Auburn, Mountainview and Riverside in addition to high schools across the state.

“It’s probably a safe bet to say that every student who has purchased a lettermans jacket in the past 40+ years purchased it at Rottles. They have also provided quality clothing at a reasonable price and allowed us to ‘buy local’ to support our local economy,” said Mayor Backus.

Since beginning involvement with lettermans jackets in the 1960s, Rottles has sold hundreds of jackets to Auburn High students, carrying a tradition of athletic pride, extracurricular accomplishment and school spirit.

“Everyone who makes a living in this community owes it to the community to give back,” said Jim Rottle. “It’s been a pleasure serving the community, my brother and I grew up here and we just wanted to serve our community.”