If you've been through Wolcott, chances are you've been to Buck's.
"Love the customers, love the business, love the selling, love coming to work everyday," said Buck's Co-owner Sandra Howard.
The 40,000 square-foot furniture store first opened its doors in 1957 and for decades has banked on being a little different. "A little hokey, a little folksy, a little crazy -- and because we're here, we're about an hour away from anyone," Howard said.
Floyd Buck founded the family-owned business and ran it with a sense of humor all his own. When he retired about a year ago, his daughter Sandy had hoped to keep things up and running-- and for a while she did. But Howard says tough sales numbers in the years since the recession and too large a staff, combined with an approach that had once helped the company stand out, has now done it in. "We always had way to much inventory than we should ever have in a store. They can theoretically come in and sit on 120 sofas and try them out, put their feet up, touch them," Howard said.
But those days are numbered. Howard has announced she's closing the store for good. "I am not sure what I am going to do next, but I am sure something, a new chapter," she said.
It will mean new chapters for her employees as well, including Rich Fichtner, who got his start thanks to a willingness to do it all. "Everything from unloading trucks to being stopped to fix a falling tile or a light bulb -- absolutely anything. I can do sales," Fichtner said. The 31-year-old is one of just five employees still punching in, down from of a high of around 20 a few years back. He says Wolcott is sure to struggle without the store that helped make it a destination for shoppers and he does not know what he'll do next. "I am a single dad, so it is always a question. I don't really know but every new chapter is a new beginning," he said.
Howard is not sure what she'll do either, but she hopes her family's signature approach that helped Buck's thrive for decades will inspire someone else looking to start a business here. "I think it will be a loss, but I am hoping somebody we'll have a wild and crazy idea and do something bigger and better," she said.
Howard says she has stopped ordering new inventory and that she expects to be closed within the next 30 to 90 days. She is working with a realtor and expects to put the property on the market for around $600,000.
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