MONTROSE – The closure of 40-year Montrose staple Jeans Westerner is a reflection of the hard times businesses, and in particular, Main Street America, continue to face.
But this sad closure will not discourage the efforts currently underway to make Montrose's downtown an attractive, vibrant place for business and the community, said Bob Brown, board chairman of Montrose's Downtown Development Authority.
Jeans Westerner, 147 N. Townsend Ave. in Montrose, announced it will close its doors once the store is cleared of all contents, including its furniture and fixtures.
That liquidation process started on Feb. 14.
“It's an end of an era,” co-owner Steve Omernik said.
Omernik has run the family business with siblings Tom and Mary Mathis after taking it over from their parents, Gene and Kay, who open the doors in 1972.
In its 40 years, the store has fought through times of new business competition and spurts of a downturned economy, but this round there were just too many factors for too long, Omernik said.
“The perfect storm hit us, as it wasn't just one thing that was a factor,” he said.
The business hit its peak in 2007 and since, profit has been declining due to less spending by consumers and more competition, on top of an already high overhead for the family-owned 25,000-square-foot building, Omernik said.
Last spring, the family closed its Delta store, but that only bought them some time. By Christmas, the siblings knew they might have to make antoher hard decision, he said.
“It was an incredible emotional roller coaster. You don't give up 40 years of life easily,” Omernik said, adding that telling his 12 employees of the decision was heartbreaking.
Omernik expects the family will put the building on the market shortly, but first, they want to sell everything in the store.
Jeans Westerner will be open 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday and from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday until everything is cleared out, he said.
The Jeans Westerner family has been a part of the downtown community since they moved to Montrose in the 1970s.
“That has been one of the most emotional parts of this whole thing – to lose that connection,” he said. “We've been pleased and proud to be a part of it.”
Brown said the DDA will help promote and market the building in conjunction with the family's desires.
“We are looking at how [the building] might work into our Plan of Development and there are several options… In a sense, it gives us another opportunity to think of something creative to do.” Brown said.
Omernik said he's glad the DDA has been established, as it was needed to focus efforts and provide a direction for the Main Street area.
“The crux of the whole conversation is how main streets and small businesses stay relevant to consumers in a world where bigger is better. It's a daunting task,” he said.
He added that he knows it can be achieved, but consumers remembering small businesses every time they make a purchase is an important component.
“In an economy like this, every purchase decision is important because every purchase is a lifeline to a business,” Omernik said.