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Ben Franklin Crafts Store in Eureka Will Be Only One in St. Louis County

With the Old Orchard Ben Franklin store owners in Webster Groves announcing this week the store would close by Oct. 31, that leaves the Ben Franklin in Eureka as the only physical one left in a large St. Louis radius.

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.

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Julie Brown Patton September 05, 2012 at 04:53 PM
You're right, Michelle Detering. Ben Franklin's is more than candy and seasonal items. They have products you may need week-to week!
Susan Thomas Smith September 05, 2012 at 06:15 PM
Eureka Ben Franklin is MORE than a great place to shop for jewelry, framing, party, craft and sewing supplies. Tom and Mary donate generously to area churches, schools, and bootster clubs! Ben Franklin also provides our local teenagers with a safe, clean, and close place to work!
Maureen Turney September 05, 2012 at 06:57 PM
sorry, "works hang" on our walls. : )
Carolyn Parmer September 06, 2012 at 12:33 AM
We are so fortunate to have Ben Franklin. I rarely shop at the chain craft stores, for Mary seems to have everything I need on hand. A trip around the store is a true inspiration for crafts and decor. You will find Ben Franklin all through my home and at least half of my Christmas decorations were purchased at Ben Franklin. Tom and Mary are great champions of Eureka. Mary was a community leader in the move to bring a new library to Eureka, even though the move meant a shift in the traffic for their store. Ben Franklin is a favorite stop for our out-of-town guests. Carolyn Parmer
John Rodgers September 10, 2012 at 04:24 PM
Really nice to have a craft store like that...i have some cousins that are into it and they would be happy to hear about this. they got my some decor last year from http://www.homeseasons.com/ and made some other stuff as well and it came out real nice.

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