As told to Jess McCuan
Bill Thomas bought his first pair of khaki pants at an army surplus store near Denison University, in Ohio, in 1984. When that pair--deep-pocketed World War II uniform pants--wore out and he couldn't find another like it, he sensed a business opportunity. He also came to believe, after a few years working in the advertising world, that durable, high-quality products were the relics of a bygone era, and that a modern company selling anything intended to last a lifetime was increasingly rare. In 1990, with a small loan from his mother, Marge, he founded Bills Khakis in his hometown of Reading, Pennsylvania. Now his $9.5 million, 26-employee company distributes 200,000 pairs of pants and shorts annually to more than 500 retailers around the country. Marge, who is 84, keeps an office in the company's headquarters, a late-1800s brick building in downtown Reading.
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