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Posted November 8, 2012 | comments 18 Comments

C.E. Thompson to close after more than half a century

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 svoth@nvdaily.com

18 Comments |

    My coworker saw the signs out front, and I coulnd't believe it. I bought my daughters first tobagan sled there for winter. I just wish I would have bought more things there! I guess we sometimes live in a world of convenience. They always seeemed very nice in the store.

    Unfortunate result of economics & local government anti-growth, anti-development land use regulation. The only thing growing in Shenandoah County is the size & cost of government (and related taxes & cost of government controlled utilities). Heck, we don't even hire local contractors to build our increasingly expensive government buildings!! "We have met the enemy & he is us!" .. Pogo

    Ah yes! Nostalgia abound's in my childhood days in Edinburg.. Walked past the old C.E. Thompson's each day on the way to and from elementary school back in the mid-late 50's.. So did a lot of town citizens of my age.. Department of Highways (now called VDOT) sat adjacent to it before both moved to new locations.. Memories never erode; just small businesses! Reggie Arno Danville VA..

    Since we moved here ten years ago, there has been a lot closures, Wrangler ,G.E.,John Mansville,Aileen,reduction of
    employees at Merillat and numerous restaurants and small businesses. Unfortunately, this is happening across the country. The last election we had an opportunity to turn things around and we failed.

      So voting for the Bain Capital fellow who closed many companies and off-shored American jobs would have been a good thing?

      Actually last election may put a stop to the fanatical TeaParty and the cries for austerity. Any economist worth his salt knows that in a recession, the govt needs to provide stimulative spending to the economy until consumer spending picks up, which in turn helps businesses.

      I trust all the Tea Party ideologues will be pure enough to reject the redistributive funding of their local school systems out of Richmond and that all the rugged individualist farmers who do want no regulatios and want the cattle to shitup every watershed will be pricipled enough to reject crop subsidies. Probably not, afterall to rednecks it's only urban blacks who are on the take.

      What hypocrites. How's that Morman culty thing working out for you misguided fools?

    Really sorry to read about C.E. Thompson's closing but I don't think you can ignore the impact on Thompson's from competition from Lowe's having opened in Woodstock in recent years. Of course, the economic downturn with a slowdown of construction certainly is an important factor, but my point is, don't discount the competition that Thompson's now has that it did not have prior to Lowe's opening which only added "insult to injury".

    Haven't we all seen this so many times before all over the country-----"big box stores" open up in the smaller towns and the "mom-and-pop" businesses can't compete on the same level and end up closing. Look at what happened to another family owned former business in Woodstock, Ben Franklin's, which closed and as told to me by one of Ben Franklin's family members, although it is true the economy has been bad and was certainly a big factor, Walmart was the death knell for Ben Franklin's and they probably would have been able to weather the poor economy had it not been for the competition from Walmart in such close proximity. I wonder if Thompson's too would have been able to weather the poor economy if they also didn't have the competition from Lowe's just a few miles up the road.

    I have known too many people---builders, 'handyman business' owners, and do-it-yourself homeowners----who have said that once Lowe's in Woodstock opened, they had another local option instead of having just Thompson's to turn to and in many cases, Lowe's, a national "big box store", was able to undercut Thompson's prices.

      Not only did people hear verbally about Walmart impact on the Ben Franklin closing, it was also stated in the NVD.

      "Christmastime at Ben Franklin was always something Hamman looked forward to because of the variety of things she could find. However, arrival of major retailers in Woodstock, such as Wal-Mart, eventually hurt the store, its owner has said." http://www.nvdaily.com/news/2010/10/closing_up_shop-mobile.html

    Sorry folks, but some of this is self-inflicted. Didn't they unwisely choose to open another store close to Northern Virginia? How in the world did they think that store would be successful so close to even more competition than just one Lowe's store?

    I am sorry to see Thompson's close. They are good people with a commitment to community relations. The business landscape has changed dramatically in recent years which brings me to reflect on how the auto industry has changed. Americans buy foreign auto brands in staggering numbers. Some have assembly and parts plants in this country providing jobs for many Americans but where do the profits go? If the domestic auto maker had a greater market share woudn't that mean the expansion of auto assembly and parts facilities be domestic s well? The global economy has a very different look as a result of the change in the auto industry due to the choices the consumer has made in this country. American auto makers would not have needed to be bailed out had their share of the market not continued to shrink drastically over the past few decades. Some of that shrinking market share has been self inflicted.

    Like the general store people relied on years ago, local businesses have lost their market share to national chains that can buy in huge numbers, warehouse in massive distribution centers and supply their stores with what they need quickly and at a more affordable price because of the leverage created by buying in such quantities.

    Thank you to the C. E.Thompson business family for providing years of local convenience, loyalty and jobs.

    Regardless of what caused it to close, it will be missed.

    I always thought their prices were high. When someone came in and proved it they were history.

    Zoodog, my thoughts exactly.

    A local business will close after 54 years and the callus, insensitive comments roll. For those fortunate enough to have a job, be thankful.
    Too many so self-absorbed and interested in expressing their own negative comments that the misfortune of others is completely overlooked.

      NV Daily has open to all of us a "comment section" ,Cinderella, it is not a comment section limited to a "warm and fuzzy, 100% positive, feel-good, I-feel-your-pain, call-me-a-Pollyanna, up-beat, up-lifting comment section". It is a COMMENT section for people to express their COMMENTS even if not everyone approves of what others are saying.

      Having said that, on some of the other of the many comment threads on NV Daily, I have read comments I not only disagreed with, but found to be insensitive or callus in one way or another, but I prefer to live in a country in which a newspaper is able to allow people to express themselves honestly even if others find comments they consider "callus". And if it bothers anyone that much, just avoid reading the comment section.

      Anyway, I for one did not see any comment on this particular thread that was egregious and insensitive expressed personally toward the Thompson family or their employees. Since the business was discussed in the paper, I think it would be naive to think that others should not give their opinions and critique of that business that is closing.

    Song98, your comments were predictable. If you fail to see any negative comments you obviously didn't read the one by Ronbo44. Typical of someone with your political views. No need to reply. I don't intend to turn the NVD comments into my personal soapbox but then, I should have realized that some would choose to use the article about a business closing for their opportunity. Help yourself.

      And your comment to me, Cinderella, was predictable as well.

      A newspaper article about how a business is closing because of lack of business and Ronbo44's comment about how he thought "their prices were high" and you think that is inappropriate? Yes, in a free press in a free country, there will be opinions from people on why they think the business has failed. He did not say anything against the Thompson family or their employees personally. He was talking about the business---the subject of the article--so I think you are 'really out in left field'. (Or maybe I should say 'right' field.)

      As far as your saying "typical of someone with my political views" since I did not agree with 'your' standard of what you consider 'negative comment', all I can say is thank you! You did not mean it as a compliment, but it is. I would not expect you to understand.


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