Economic woes continue

DALLAS -- Two Main Street businesses closed their doors last week, leaving two vacancies in prime locations in the city's core.

DALLAS -- Two Main Street businesses closed their doors last week, leaving two vacancies in prime locations in the city's core.

Ray's Home and Garden at 742 Main St. and Arctic Circle at 433 Main St. shut down permanently last week.

The good news at least for one of the properties is that is may be reopening as a new restaurant.

Sean Chung, the owner of Thrifty Mart on Rainbow Avenue in Dallas, is in the process of purchasing the Arctic Circle building. He said his prospective plans are to clean and remodel the building in preparation for opening a natural-beef hamburger and fried chicken restaurant.

Chung said he isn't sure how long remodeling will take.

Ray's Home and Garden building owners Judy Friesen and Jan Keucher, the owners of Plain & Fancy Gifts, said they found out about a month ago that Ray's would be closing.

Friesen said she suspects the economy was a big part of Ray and Carole Hobart's decision to close the store. Efforts by the Itemizer-Observer to reach the owners were unsuccessful.

Friesen said the home and garden store's last day was June 30, but it hadn't been open to customers those last few days.

Keucher and Friesen said it was especially sad to see two business close their doors in the same week.

"I hate to see any of these businesses go under," Keucher said.

Community Development Director Jason Locke said with the loss of Ray's is an end of an era for Dallas.

"There aren't too many 'Main Street' hardware stores around anymore," Locke said. "That was a part of history in a lot of towns."

Unlike the Arctic Circle building, there isn't any immediate plans for the space.

Locke said the city will put the word out that the Ray's space is vacant to businesses who have expressed interest in moving to Dallas.

Friesen and Keucher said they intend to list the property as for lease or sale.

"You never like to see that happen," Locke said of the hardware store closing. "But it does happen, and more often now."

Gary Cooley, who owns and operates Cooley's Furniture at 680 Main St. with his brother, Loren, knows exactly how difficult business has been lately.

"It's sort of dismal right now," he said.

The Cooley's building is also for sale, as the brothers believe it is time to start thinking about retirement. Cooley's Furniture is approaching 65 years of being in business in Dallas. They are trying to stay open until finding a buyer, but it has been tough.

"We are just trying to take it a day at a time instead of just closing the doors," Gary Cooley said.

If business has been slow, so has trying to sell the property, which includes two buildings and a warehouse.

"We've had a few lookers, but no offers," Cooley said.

Cooley said there are a number of factors contributing to the uphill battle facing businesses in Dallas, namely the loss of major industries, including Weyerhaeuser's mill.

"When they shut that down, we could feel that," he said. "Everybody could."

Cooley said increasing fuel costs to ship merchandise adds expense to running a business and competitors, like Walmart, have shifted customers away from locally operated shops.

Perhaps the biggest factor is the economy. Cooley said in the years the family has owned the business, he can't remember a downturn as tough as this one.

"We've never seen it go this long, with the economy down," he said.

Cooley said he is looking for better times soon.

"It's going to swing around," he said. "It's got to."

Reflecting on the recent closures, Cooley noted Dallas' population is too large to allow its residents to do all their shopping in other towns.

"I hate to see a lot of these shops fold," Cooley said. "At one time you could get anything you wanted on Main Street."

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