A Lasting Legacy | Evansville Living Magazine

As a family business with deep roots in the community, shoppers continue to support the store at 2225 W. Franklin St.

The “pop, pop, pop” of machine guns could be heard as World War II raged on the Western Front and forever changed millions of lives. Teenage Paul Eickhoff, from St. Philip in nearby Posey County, lay among the wounded in the Battle of the Bulge in the winter of 1944-45. He was shot 12 times, stabbed in the back and left on the battlefield, his wounds having resulted in the loss of use of his right arm. Although Eickhoff was physically hampered, these circumstances did not prevent him from pursuing his goals and achieving several milestones, including establishing Paul’s Menswear in Evansville.

Eickhoff was born into a poor country family with five siblings. At the age of 16, he and his twin brother enlisted in the army. “They were born at home. They didn’t have birth certificates, so they could lie about their age,” says Steve, Eickhoff’s son.

Eickhoff spent three years in hospital but never fully recovered from the injuries he sustained in combat.

“When my dad came out of the hospital, he had no skills because he dropped out of high school after his second year,” Steve says.

While looking for work, Eickhoff met Art Abel, owner of Abel’s Menswear on Franklin Street in Evansville. Although Eickhoff had not finished high school, Abel offered to hire him, an offer that shocked Eickhoff. He allegedly asked Abel, “Why do you want to hire me? I can’t even tie someone’s shoes. Abel replied, “Tell them to tie their own fucking shoes. You are a veteran. We will see the use of your hands.

Eickhoff worked for Abel until the former purchased the latter’s store in 1963. The local Evansville men’s clothing store began its new chapter as Paul’s Menswear, becoming a family business.

“I have a brother, John, who works here, and my son Brian works here. All of my nephews and nieces at one time or another worked here while in high school. Two of my grandsons are coming in and working part-time,” Steve explains.

Members of the Eickhoff family spent hours doing daily tasks ranging from bookkeeping and shopping to sweeping floors and checking inventory. Steve and his siblings grew up in Evansville and attended Mater Dei High School. When he wasn’t busy with extracurricular activities like football or wrestling, Steve helped his dad at the store.

“You always did something when you were a kid. There was always work to be done,” says Steve. “You received merchandise every day. These were things you could mark. I started serving customers when I was in high school.

While pursuing an accounting degree at the University of Southern Indiana, Steve balanced the responsibility of helping run a business with schoolwork.

“Throughout college I worked here and went to school during the day, evening and summer. I still graduated in four years,” he says. My wife started working here when we were in college and we ended up getting married two weeks after graduating from USI.

Steve took ownership after Eickhoff’s death in February 1994. Over the years, Paul’s Menswear moved between four different storefronts, but was always positioned on Franklin Street.

“The first location was where Chaser’s Bar & Grill is, and we rented half of that building,” Steve explains. “Around 1995, we bought the buildings here. We bought four houses behind us, demolished them to make parking lots and built our own building. We have been here ever since.

As a family business with deep roots in the community, shoppers continue to support the store at 2225 W. Franklin St.

“Over the past 10 years, I’ve noticed that people now like to shop locally. I think people like having someone (who) knows them. I think they appreciate the service,” says Steve.

Things are changing for Paul’s Menswear, as its services have expanded to wedding and prom suits and are being promoted to reach a younger generation of customers.

“Our business is better than it has ever been. Business is going very, very well right now,” says Steve. “For a while, the age of our clientele has aged. Now, with weddings and proms, it’s amazing how many clients we have in their 20s and 30s. Now we sell a lot more fitted shirts and fitted suits,” says Steve.

Paul’s Menswear offers formal wear as well as trendy brands.

“It’s funny when guys come in who’ve never been there, and they’re really excited to see that we’re offering Levi’s or things that aren’t suits,” said Kelley Conners, who works at Paul’s Menswear. since 2015.

“Mr. Abel always said never judge someone by the way they dress. He said, ‘The guy who wears overalls has as much money as the guy who drives a brand new Cadillac’. explains Steve, “He said you treat everyone the same, no matter how they look or behave, and you always treat everyone fairly. And I think customers have understood that over the years.” I think that’s why we have so many loyal customers who keep coming back.


Editor’s note: This article was written by Nora Ruotolo, a sports communication student at the University of Evansville, as part of Dr. Tamara Wandel’s Integrated Communication Campaigns course.