Barn Owl closing

Published 9:46 am Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Barn Owl store at 102 W. Church Street in Atmore will be closing its doors in July. We opened in early 2010 with the hopes of operating a successful retail/ resale store for years to supplement Social Security in our retirement. Instead we have had to support the store from our meager savings.

Looking around town, we see that others have faced the same dilemma and are reluctantly giving up the effort. Stores are closing, merchants are moving into smaller locations, home-owners are posting “For Sale” signs. Common wisdom is “it’s the economy”, and that is certainly true. However there are a couple of other contributing causes to the woes of small businesses in Atmore. I ask the reader to consider these possibilities.

Atmore is a bedroom community and a lot of its residents work in Mobile or Pensacola. Even those who work here in town tend to shop at the big stores in one of the big cities. Money that could be spent here ends up being spent at WalMart, Target, Big Buy, Lowe’s or The Home Depot. Will you pay a little bit more at your local Mom and Pop store?

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Of course, but you will save that much and more in gas, as well as dealing with your neighbors instead of a faceless corporation in Arkansas or New York.

Small business owners in Atmore compete against “serial yard-salers”.

This is my term for folks who have a yard sale every month or so, buying merchandise to sell on their driveway, as though they were running a store.

Nothing wrong with yard sales, as a legitimate way of unloading unwanted household goods, but if you are shopping for items to sell at a yard sale, you are running an illegal store and should be stopped by city authorities.

Atmore zoning personnel explained to me that it is not legal to run a business under the guise of a yard-sale because one must have licenses and collect taxes to run a business. You know the folks in your own neighborhood who have flaunted this law; one lady actually tells customers when she expects to have a supply of particular items for sale. That’s not a “yard sale” that’s an illegal store.

If I pay rent, utilities, license fees, and advertising costs and collect taxes for the city, county and state, how can I compete with John or Jane Doe, who shop flea markets for cheap merchandise to sell in their yard?

When you drive down Main Street and lament the absence of the Bean Store or the Bargain Bin, think about the reasons they couldn’t survive.

If you notice the “musical chairs” game that occurs on downtown side streets as hopeful merchants open stores and then close up a year later, remember that these are your neighbors and friends, not strangers working for some huge conglomerate.

As for the Barn Owl, we will be closing our doors for good on July 16.  On that date we will have a large store-wide auction to clear the store of everything, including most of the fittings and display items.

If you have lay-away merchandise in the store, please arrange to pick it up before  that date. Call me at 251-375-4797 for special arrangements.

It has been a lot of fun, Atmore. I am sincerely sorry that it has to end this way.

Norm Boyd