By BECKY THOMAS
Mim Shamblin feels she has been blessed in her career. She runs the fabric department at Cheney's Ben Franklin store, and has been since 1979. Owner Bill Nation says “she came with the store” when he bought it in 1981.
Shamblin says she loves the “sewing ladies” who come in to purchase fabric, and return to show her the finished product. Shamblin is proud of the work she has done over the years, and she's not sure yet what she'll do after the store closes.
“No regrets,” she said. “I don't even know another person who's walked into their job for 30 years and said, ‘I'm happy to be here.'”
Ben Franklin will close this fall, owners announced in a letter to customers last week. The variety and craft store, which also houses a Radio Shack, will began selling off inventory at discounted prices Sept. 19.
Bill Nation, who owns the store with wife Nancy, was pragmatic about the decision to close last week.
“This has been great,” he said. “It's just the economy, competition, there's just not enough spending dollars in the community.”
The past three years have brought a decline in business at the Cheney Ben Franklin. The Nations bought the store from Henry Benjamin, who opened it in 1975. They operated in a space inside the current Cheney Trading Company supermarket until 1991, when they moved next door to a 22,000 square foot space that now houses a wide variety of home and craft supplies, toys, sporting goods, clothing and more.
The business has been a family affair, with sons Michael and Steven Nation managing the store. Steven has been working in the store since high school, while Michael started in 1991.
Michael Nation said business really dropped off last fall, and when they were unable to renegotiate their lease with building owner Cheney Investments, LLC, the family began discussing closing the store.
In the letter mailed last week, the Nations thanked customers for their business.
“We have been proud to be part of the Cheney business community and have strived to satisfy customers' needs and create a fun shopping atmosphere,” they wrote.
A liquidation sale started Wednesday, with heavily discounted prices on all items. Michael Nation said the sale would continue until everything was sold. He said even things like office furniture, shelving and fixtures would be sold.
The closing affects 20 employees, some like Shamblin who have worked there for decades. Bill and Nancy Nation are looking forward to retiring, but they do so with mixed emotions. They're proud of what they've done in business, but are also sad to see the store go.
“It's never a woo-hoo,” Bill Nation said. “It's a tough thing. You'll miss the employees and the customers.”
The store, located at 6 Cheney-Spokane Road, is open Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 6 p.m. For more information, call the store at 235-6215.
Becky Thomas can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.