Pelzl’s to close its doors
Another downtown mainstay will close its doors in Tonganoxie.
Don Pelzl, owner of Pelzl's Do-It Best Hardware and V and S Variety Store, said Monday that he planned to close his doors in the coming months.
A closeout sale will begin next week at the store, which has been in business since 1979 in the 400 block of Fourth Street.
Last year, in the next block to the east, John Lenahan retired from the retail business, closing his hardware store at the age of 83 after 35 years in business.
Pelzl, who is 70, said he had planned to run his store for a few more years, but his thought process started to change about two months ago. His son has cancer, which played a role in his decision.
And, Pelzl said, the business' sales have been "kind of flat for the last three or four years."
Sales first changed when a large retail chain opened a new store down the road in fall 2002.
"I tell you the thing we noticed the most is when they opened the Super Wal-Mart in Bonner," Pelzl said, referring to the new store on Kansas Highway 7 in Bonner Springs.
Making a career change
Don and Jeanene Pelzl taught for about 18 years in Kansas City, Kan., when they decided it was time for a new career path.
"I was always interested in running, at that time, just a small hardware store," Don Pelzl said. "And I was just kind of burned out in teaching."
Though both he and his wife are trained musicians, Don taught music, while Jeanene taught library science.
Don and Jeanene both worked at the store initially, but Jeanene later decided to retire for good.
"I told her she should retire, that's what I would have done," Don said.
That was 1979, when the Pelzls rented a portion of the west half of their current building. At the time, it was a Western Auto, with Zoellner's Dried Goods store situated in the same building, but in the eastern half of what is now the full Pelzl's store. Bichelemeyer's Steakhouse now stands next door to the east.
About eight years after starting the business, the Pelzls purchased the entire building and formed one large store that also served as a variety store. At that time, the store switched its affiliation to True Value. And roughly six years ago, Pelzl said he made the switch to Do-It Best.
The best part of his job, Pelzl said, is helping people with their "do-it yourself" projects.
"I enjoy helping people solve their problems at home, electrical problems, all of that," Pelzl said.
As for the variety store details, he leaves that to his daughter, Beth Tiner.
"My daughter does most of the variety stuff," Pelzl said. "It doesn't interest me."
Tiner, though, sings a different tune. She started working part-time for the family business in 1980 and has been working full-time since 1985 or 1986, she said. Buying merchandise and going to merchandise shows are things she'll miss most about the store.
The combined variety store and hardware store, seems to have a little bit of everything for local shoppers.
"It definitely has a character all its own," Tiner said.
A building with history
When the Pelzls ran the Western Auto there also was a dentist's office and a video store in the west portion of the building. When the family purchased the entire building, partitions between the various businesses within the building were removed.
Juanita DeMaranville, who has been the family business' longest-running employee, started working there in 1987. DeMaranville also had worked previously at Zoellner's and recalled spending the first few months on the job at Pelzls.
DeMaranville started working at Zoellner's after all of her and her husband Jim's children were out on their own and moved out of their house. In 1989, two years after DeMaranville started working for Pelzl's, Jim died.
DeMaranville decided to continue working at the store after her husband's death.
"It was a place to come every day," said DeMaranville.
And, a store with good ownership.
"A very good man to work for," Demaranville said about Pelzl.
As for what she plans to do after the store closes, DeMaranville is unsure, but she doesn't plan to do nothing.
"I'm a young 72, so I could do something if I wanted," said DeMaranville, who actually turns 72 in October. "I'm don't sit around well."
At the same time, she mentioned it wouldn't be easy to leave her co-workers and customers behind.
"I'm sure I'll miss the people.
Watching them grow up
As teachers, Don and Jeanene Pelzl got to witness first-hand children growing as they made their way from grade to grade.
The same could be said for many of the local residents who worked at the business while they were in high school.
"That's especially true of the kids who have worked here," Pelzl said. "They start in high school, their junior year, and now are through college and have careers of their own. It's interesting to see that."
In the coming months, the fixture on the north side of Fourth Street will close its doors. Pelzl said he's not currently pursuing a buyer for the building, but would listen to anyone who wanted to make an offer.
In the nearly 30 years that Pelzl has been in retail, he's seen the face of the business change.
As he noted, it was important to adjust with it.
"I think there's a lot more competition then there was 10 or 15 years ago; just a lot more stores around," Pelzl said. "There's always just so many dollars for people to spend, and it makes it harder to get a bite of that.
"I think a unique inventory is kind of essential to keep your business going nowadays."