By Sally Voth
Before the year is out, one of Edinburg's economic foundations -- and in the case of some homes in town and the surrounding area, it literally built the foundation -- will close shop for good.
C.E. Thompson & Sons, the hardware store that carries everything from doors to windows to paints to lumber to gardening items to hand tools is going out of business after 54 years.
Everything in the store is marked down 20 percent.
Owners Harris Thompson and sisters, Mary Beth Foltz and Ann Thompson Shirkey, blame the closure on a lack of sales volume. Their grandfather, C.E., their late father, Johnny, and their late uncle, Billy, started the hardware store and construction company in 1958.
Its current building at 201 Stoney Creek Blvd. opened in 1974, and is a separate LLC, Foltz said. Before that, the company was in the former King Cola bottling plant on West Piccadilly Street across Stoney Creek Boulevard.
While the Thompsons built the metal portion of their building, the back part had been a former apple packing plant and a Studebaker warehouse, according to the store's website. The building is owned by their mother, Mary Lou Thompson.
"If somebody wanted to open another hardware store/lumberyard [here], it would be great," Harris Thompson said Thursday.
Foltz didn't seem confident that would happen.
"Currently, there's not a lot of contractors in the area with a lot of business, though," she said. "We don't have any volume anymore."
"Lack of sales is really what it is," Thompson agreed.
The hardware store had been working with many strong contractors, according to Foltz.
"A lot of them went out of business," she said.
Others who had busy companies are now seeing much less business, too, Foltz added.
"I've spoken with a lot of my dad's contemporaries, and they said they had never seen the economy this bad in all the years they've been in business," she said.
One told her he'd never seen a slump last this long, Foltz said.
"There's not many new homes," Thompson said. "There's not much renovation going on."
C.E. Thompson's construction business shut down early this year, her brother said.
With closure looming, the siblings aren't yet sure what their future holds.
"Don't really know at this time," Thompson said.
Foltz added, "I think we just need some time to finish this off and think about what we want to do."
She was a second-grader when the new store was built, and said the hardware business was all they knew.
"This was how we made our living," Foltz said. "There were some rough years along the way. There were some years when Dad sat us down around the table."
She's grateful her 18-year-old son has experienced so many aspects of working in the store.
"I'm thankful for the experience that he gained because he's learned customer service," Foltz said. "He learned about lumber and building materials, had to work the cash register."
All three siblings cited the customers they've served over the decades as being the main perk of being in the business.
"We really just want to thank our customers in the community for their support during the last 54 years," Shirkey said. "We've gotten a lot of prayers going out for us, and a lot of thoughtful and kind comments. Everyone's been very supportive.
"The customers, the vendors, the people that you develop relationships with. We've been doing this our whole lives, started out cleaning the toilets. Contractors came in and watched me grow up. Employees that I think of as brothers and sisters.
"People come in, [and] it's like the old country store. They will come in and sit around and talk. It's a social thing that our employees and our customers will miss."
The store has retired many employees over the years, Foltz said.
Fifty-year employee Jack Heishman will join them when the store shuts down for good. He was in his late teens when he was hired.
"I started out working for Mr. C.E., then his son William, then his son John, in 1962," Heishman said. "Done everything there is here to be done."
That includes keeping the books, driving a truck, selling to contractors, digging footings for houses and hauling "a lot of building material before you had fork lifts and stuff like that."
"We've had loyal customers that have been buying ever since I've been here," Heishman said. "Nothing lasts forever."
Contact staff writer Sally Voth at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or email@example.com