News of Riverton, Lander and Fremont County, Wyoming, from the Ranger's award winning journalists.
Family-owned Ben Franklin to close
Apr 5, 2012 - By Joshua Scheer, Staff Writer
For the Waltons, a five-year journey is coming to an end with the closing of Ben Franklin Craft and Party in downtown Riverton.
"This is actually our anniversary week," said store owner Jeri Walton on April 4, the first day of liquidation sales.
She and her husband, Scott, previously owned a pair of dollar stores, one in Lander and one in Riverton.
"When (competitor) Dollar Tree came it was hard," Walton said. Eventually they closed both of their dollar stores.
Her crafting hobby led her to open Ben Franklin.
"It's been fun," Walton said. "I've enjoyed it."
She said the decision to close the store came only a few weeks ago, though the shop has been for sale for about two years.
After learning the best times to liquidate a store are in the spring or fall, the Waltons decided now was the time.
"People have told us they were going to be tearing up Federal (Boulevard)," she said, adding that when Main Street was worked on business was significantly affected. "So we thought, 'OK, we'll do it.' I think it was harder on me than (my husband)."
Ultimately, the decision came down to numbers.
"We've just been hanging on and not making money," Walton said. "It's really hard."
To prepare for the liquidation, the store was closed for two days.
On Wednesday morning, a crowd gathered and formed a line at the front door waiting for the Ben Franklin to open.
"There were people at 8 this morning," Walton said, noting the store didn't open until 9 a.m.
She stopped counting after 220 people walked through the door shortly after opening.
By 4 p.m., there were still multiple lines of people waiting to check out.
An official last day has not been determined, but Walton believed it would be in four to six weeks.
The building the store is in, which the Waltons also own, is for sale, and she thinks it might be possible to lease out the space once Ben Franklin is gone.
Walton is looking forward to the added freedom she'll have once the doors are locked and plans on spending more time playing with her grandchildren.
But she knows the store will be missed and would have liked it to stay around.
"I hate to disappoint people in town," she said.
Many customers said they are also disappointed.
"It's very sad because we don't have any craft stores in town," said Patty Connell while shopping.
"I'm devastated," said Carolyn Miller, who was interrupted by Jean Jensen chiming in, "Yes, me too."
Miller said Ben Franklin was a store she could always count on having what she needed.
"It broke my heart," she continued. "I hope that the owners are going to be OK."
For Walton, interacting with customers was one of her favorite parts of the job.
"We really enjoyed working with the public," she said. "We have some really good customers we like to visit with."
Through Saturday Ben Franklin will be open 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Next week the hours will change to 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Friday, and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday. The store is closed on Sundays.