By Anna Akins and Ava Lindsay
Three well-established businesses on Lexington’s Main Street have announced they will soon be closing their doors. Owners of Hamilton-Robbins, McCorkle’s Hallmark and Frame and Design have said recently that they will be shutting down their stores because of slowing sales and increasing online competition.
Frame and Design and McCorkle’s Hallmark will be ceasing operations toward the end of February. Hamilton-Robbins will be closing toward the end of the year.
Like many bricks-and-mortar retailers, the three shops have been buffeted by increased sales by online merchants like Amazon, free shipping and the lingering effects of the 2008 Great Recession.
“It’s hard to compete because people get free shipping elsewhere,” said Stephen Robbins, owner of Hamilton Robbins, which will close by the end of 2017. He cited the rise in e-commerce as a major factor in his dwindling sales figures.
A high-end retail and interior design business located across from Hess & Co. Jewelers at 21 S. Main St., Hamilton Robbins offers exclusive personal care, artisan glassware, fashion jewelry and ideas for fine gift giving. It also offers gift registry services and nationwide shipping.
Robbins, who leases his store, said he plans to close the shop but will continue his interior design consulting business.
“I have been considering [closing] for the last few years,” he said. “I knew the time had come.”
Frame and Design, a custom frame shop at 126 S. Main St., is slated to close sometime in February, depending on how many orders it receives between now and then. Owner Nancy Boggs, who has operated her shop for nearly 12 years, said she is retiring and plans to move to Kansas to be closer to her children and grandchildren.
A self-taught framer who leases her store, Boggs said sales have been good, but added that business has been tough ever since the 2008 recession.
“It’s been a good business and I’ve done well, but to pull this business through after [the recession] was tricky,” she said. “There was so much uncertainty.”
Boggs said her favorite aspect of the job has been interacting with customers and learning about the unique stories behind the artwork she has framed for them.
McCorkle’s Hallmark, a retail chain at 41 S. Main St. that sells greeting cards, gift wrap, ornaments and gifts, is set to close by the end of February, according to Mary Ann McCall, a long-term store employee.
The Hallmark shop has been on Main Street in two successive locations since 1984 and is owned by Bill McCorkle.
As with Boggs’ store, this popular Main Street establishment has also experienced a decline in customer traffic, with sales declining nearly 10 percent in the past year.
However, McCall, who has worked at Hallmark since 1989, said that business has picked up since the announcement of the store’s closing. A long-time Lexington resident, McCall also said Hallmark’s impending closure has strengthened the store’s bond with the community.
“This is not a store, it’s a family,” she said. “We’ve got good customers.”
Although the loss of three well-known local stores is disruptive for the retail corridor, Lexington City Manager Noah Simon remains optimistic for the town’s future.
“While I never enjoy hearing news about downtown businesses closing, it’s important to focus on the positives,” he said.
Main Street is awaiting the addition of Kind Roots Café, a vegan and vegetarian restaurant that is located along Lee Highway, sometime this spring, according to the Lexington-Rockbridge Chamber of Commerce.
David Stull, broker and owner of Lexington-based Sterling Properties & Management, LLC, said there has not been much of a change in demand for Main Street shop availability as of now. “Business has been pretty steady as far as people looking for commercial space,” he said.
And Simon added that local business development group Main Street Lexington is working with members of the community to create new ideas and plans that will preserve the energy and enthusiasm of downtown Lexington.
“I am confident that these efforts will produce the next evolution of a healthy downtown mix of businesses that make Lexington great,” he said.