Schaefer's Ladies Wear is closing.
Owner Louise Schaefer told the Journal Argus on the weekend the store would be closed for three days, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday this week, to prepare for a sale which would run Thursday, Friday and Saturday for extended hours.
Schaefer would not say when the store will close its doors for good. She did note that she has no plans to close her other 'Schaefer's' which is located in Goderich.
Schaefer blamed the closing of the St. Marys store on a lack of business.
"There's been a decline in traffic within the town of St. Marys," she said. "I've seen quite a change over the last 15 years from what was a very busy little town — at one point it was try to find a parking space — now we don't have an issue with that.
"A lot of time you can just park wherever you want, and that shows in traffic within the store."
Louise Schaefer, who bought the business 15 years ago, says she thought long and hard before making her decision.
"It's not a decision that I made lightly," she stressed. "It took a lot of consideration, but I don't ever want to get into a situation where I would have to struggle with debt.
"When people hear of a store closing, whether it's closing as I'm doing to concentrate on my primary location, or retirement or whatever . . . a lot of thought goes into it.
"You don't like to leave a good town, you don't like to leave your customers, but at some point we have to accept ourselves that a percentage of our customers has left us. And that is sort of the precipitator to this move.
"So whether they've gone to London or Stratford, I don't know, or whether they're just not buying, but it does affect a small town," Schaefer said.
"In a way, I'm sorry to leave St. Marys. It's one of the most gorgeous little towns, the people are great . . . but it's just my time to move on . . . and concentrate on the one store."
There has been a store with ladies clothing, and in many instances much more, in that same Queen Street location for more than 100 years.
J.B. Tudor told the Journal Argus Monday that he purchased what he called "Tudor's" on May 15, 1954 from Fred Lofft.
That store was called the A.H. Lofft and Company, and was started by Fred Lofft's father in the late 1800s.
"Lofft's was a junior department store and he had the men's store as well," Tudor recalled. Ray Bennett bought the men's clothing business in 1958.
"Ray and I bought the building from Mr. Lofft in 1964, and we still own it. Ray and I got along great, it worked out well," he noted.
"I would like to sell it," Tudor said of the building.
Tudor says he was aware of the plans to close Schaefer's. "Louise and I've talked about it. She was doing business, but wasn't getting a big enough return for her investment. She's got the store in Goderich and that's doing fine, she really didn't need to have this aggravation."
As to his personal feeling about the store closure, he's disappointed, but not about to give up on downtown St. Marys.
"I'm sorry to see it close, because I think it was the best store in St. Marys," Tudor said.
"I think small towns are in a cycle; this is not an isolated instance in Ontario. I think there's a lot of it going on. The big are getting bigger. But I don't by any means think St. Marys is going to die; I think it's too good a town for that.
"It's in a phase and I'm sure it will recover."
Tudor says he was lucky to have had Tudor's at a good time when "things were going great" and it worked out well.
"This is a good town and I still think there's a place for small-town Ontario to thrive . . . I don't know what the answer is. One thing we used to be able to do here in a small town, and I always stressed to my girls, that we could offer something the big stores couldn't and that was personal service; call Mrs. Jones by name and be ready to serve her."
Tudor believes people like and appreciate that personal service and there may yet be a turnaround in the 'rush to the city to shop' trend.
"I think it will come back," Jack Tudor said.