With all the nostalgia associated with Ben Franklin Crafts stores, it's hard not to wince when hearing about one of the BFC stores closing. But that was the case for the , for which all the inventory will be liquidated over this month and next.
resident Tom Hampel owns the store in Eureka. He and his brother, Gary, also own the one located in Webster Groves. The third Ben Franklin store they owned was in South County, which they already closed last year.
"We tried everything," said Tom, when referencing trying to work out leasing arrangements with the building's owner, Webster University.
Tom said Webster University managers raised their rental fee this year by $4 per square foot, adding an extra $45,000 annually to their infrastructure costs. "Retail business has been down since 2008, so we've had three years of decreasing revenue. We asked Webster University if they could raise the rent just a little, rather than this big jump. I even showed them our P&L statement, but they declined," he said.
"They made it too tough," said Tom, "and we just couldn't absorb the new cost."
Gary Hampel told Webster Groves Patch Editor, Sheri Gassaway, the poor economy was another of the major reasons behind the closure of the Webster Groves craft store, which they opened 30 years ago.
In fact, Tom, said the Webster Groves BF store opened on Oct. 31, 1982, which would be 30 years to the exact date.
"My store is full of wants, not needs," Gary told Patch. "With the economy, people are cautious on how they are spending their money."
Tom agrees, indicating that people, in general, just don't seem to be buying extras.
Ben Franklin Crafts stores are independently owned, yet there has not been a Ben Franklin Corporation since 1995, said Tom.
He said he opened the Eureka store in 1988.
Regarding being the last BFC store in St. Louis County, he said his lease goes until 2015, and "unless something crazy" happens, he intends to keep providing the products and services in Eureka for which they are known.
Tom said his next project is to take the store offerings online. "It's tough to run these variety stores. I guess we're a dying breed."
He said the next seasonal offerings will be candy and decorations for Halloween parties, and of course, fall decorations, followed by special discounts on Christmas ornaments and decorations. BF stores also provide other household items, such as jewelry, picture framing, sewing items, candles, balloons, cards, statutes, gifts, art supplies, toys, housewares—and of course, crafts.
A sale providing 20 percent off select items at the Webster Groves Ben Franklin store starts today.