Editor's note: This story was published in the Friday, Dec. 26, edition of the Daily Progress, but was not published on the Web site. Our apologies.



By Cristin Ross

cross@jacksonvilleprogress.com

Shelves lining Discount City’s toy aisles had very little left on them, if they weren’t completely bare, Wednesday.

Sadly, it’s not because a mob of frenzied Christmas gift-buyers cleaned the store out with some last-minute shopping. No, Discount City owner Doug Crouch has made the decision to close the store’s doors after 55 years serving Jacksonville.

“The shape of the economy now certainly isn’t helping,” Crouch said Wednesday afternoon. “But really it’s been quite a few other things that prompted me to make this decision — mostly a lack of profit.

“It’s getting harder and harder to compete these days in the retail business. There aren’t a lot of us independents in the business anymore,” he said.

Crouch shared his decision with the store’s 36 employees Monday.

“I hate to see it happen,” said Bonnie Dickson, a clerk in housewares. “Even if I didn’t work here, I’d hate it. I’ve been working here for eight years and I’ve enjoyed it all. I’ve worked with the public all my life so it was the ideal job for me.”

Customers meandered through the store’s lanes Wednesday, visiting with one another and selecting items for both Christmas gifts and regular, everyday use.

“It breaks my heart,” Jacksonville shopper Johnna Fuller said as she perused kitchen wares. “I’ve been shopping here ever since I was a kid, when they were an army surplus store across the street.

“They’ve got items that you just can’t find anywhere else. It’s going to be missed, that’s for sure,” she said.

Rusk resident Tony Collins was shopping for new jeans Wednesday.

“I’ve shopped here my whole life,” he said. “They got good jeans, cheaper than (another store). I’ll have to find somewhere else to go; that’s the only thing I can do.”

News of Discount City’s imminent closing came as a shock to Jacksonville residents Maria Rangel and Miguel Rodriguez, who were in the store picking up some last minute stocking-stuffers.

“They’re closing?” Rangel asked incredulously. “Now what am I going to do?”

The pair said they preferred to shop at Discount City because of the store’s selection and prices.

“They seem to have more of a choice on certain things,” Rodriguez said.

Jacksonville resident Tenora Rhynes summed it up succinctly.

“It’s like a little piece of Jacksonville’s history is fading,” she said. “My grandma and grandpa used to bring me here to shop. It’s hard to believe it won’t be here much longer.

“I’ve been to the new store and it’s nice, but they don’t have the same things you can find here, clothing wise,” she said.

Crouch said he hasn’t set an official final day.

“We’ve never done this before (close the store),” he said. “So I just don’t know. We’re going to try to sell as much as possible at retail, as opposed to auctioning it off. Of course there’ll be those odds and ends that we just can’t find a home for.”

Crouch’s father, Ralph Crouch, started his retail career in 1943, when he opened Surplus Sales. A few years later, the family built the store on the site at the corner of Bolton and U.S. Highway 79 and changed the name to Discount City.

“He’d still be here today, if his health would allow,” Doug Crouch said of his dad. “And if we were to stay open, he’d come back in a minute.”

Having literally grown up in the store, Crouch said he’s seen other businesses come and go.

“The only thing I can think of that was open when we opened, and still is, is Bearden’s Furniture,” he said. “That’s all.”

He’s also been witness to a plethora of changes made in the retail business — some good, some bad, he said.

“The biggest change is the competition,” he said. “When we first opened, our competition was Gibson’s. Now it’s on a lot grander scale.

“As suppliers got bigger and bigger, they started shipping to distribution centers instead of directly to stores. In order to buy things, you’d have to buy bigger and bigger loads. It made it much more difficult on the smaller scale. A lot of our smaller suppliers went out of business, too, for the same reasons,” Doug Crouch said.

Crouch said while he doesn’t have any immediate plans for the future, he wanted to thank all his customers over the years and the Jacksonville community as a whole.

“There were days when I’d think, as I opened the doors, ‘No one has to come here today. What happens then?’ Thankfully, people have always shown up, every day. They chose to come here for what they wanted or needed.

“How can you not appreciate that?”

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