Signs announcing a liquidation sale with 30 percent off all goods – no returns – went onto the glass doors of Swain's Outdoor and More over the weekend. Shoppers immediately responded.
"Sales were incredible yesterday (Sunday)," said Glenda Swain Cable, who, since 1996, has owned the venerable variety store with her husband Dick Cable.
But it's too late for Swain's Outdoor. The store, which tried to provide every hard good staple for local residents not provided by more visitor-oriented retailers, is in its final weeks.
Store owners remain optimistic that another retailer will occupy the 22,000 square feet of store space in the Port Townsend shopping center. The store has a lease for several more months. An unnamed retailer will be discussing options with manager Grant Cable, 26-year-old son of the owners, later this week, said Glenda Cable.
"They are retailers," she said. "They know what they're doing. They are Washington-based although not from this area."
The "other" Swain's store, based in Port Angeles but separately owned and operated, had also taken a look but may decide not to enter the Jefferson County market, Glenda said.
Filling the need
In addition, local discussion of a new locally owned mercantile store has been accelerated by news of the closure.
“It’s really sad to see them go; they’ve been one of the anchors in our community,” said Mayor Michelle Sandoval. “It is private enterprise and I hope that someone else comes along. If not, it’s a good time to do an assessment of our needs and see what we can do as a community.” Regarding a community mercantile, she said, “there’s no time like the present.”
But there is no immediate plan for one, said Sandoval.
“We’re really sorry to see them go,” Sandoval said. “It’s hard enough to be in business during good times, and in bad times… it’s been a hard three years for people in business, especially if you were on the edge.”
Don Hoglund, who owns Don’s Pharmacy – just down the plaza from Swain’s – with his mother Donna, said his store is taking another look at its inventory.
“The downside (of the closure) is they are not generating customer traffic for the people whose needs they meet,” he said. But he added that Don’s may be in a position to alter some of its product lines to fill some holes left by Swain's Outdoor closure. “It’s a double-edged sword,” he said. “We are evaluating what we need to do to respond to the needs of the community.”
The space occupied by Swain's was, in the late 1980s and early 1990s, a Sprouse-Reitz variety store. When Sprouse closed up, Don’s Pharmacy leased the space and opened Bay Variety in 1994. But supplier problems prompted the Hoglunds to sell the merchandise and the lease to Swain's in 1996.
Dick Cable is a Jefferson County native. His wife, Glenda, is one of the daughters of Cliff Swain, the retailer who launched Swain’s in Port Angeles in 1957. After Cliff’s death in 1995, his estate was divided between his daughters. Glenda's sister, Rebecca Gedlund, became sole owner of the Port Angeles Swain's. Dick and Glenda created the Port Townsend store, naming it Swain's Outdoor and More, in 1996.
In 2001, the Cables opened a second Swain's Outdoor in Sequim, moving and expanding the space in 2006. In June 2010 the Cables decided to close the Sequim store. The Sequim store saw a significant drop in customers when Walmart and Home Depot opened in Sequim. They moved the merchandise to the Port Townsend store. At the time, Grant Cable – then managing the Sequim store – said it was hard to get a bank loan and consolidation was the best answer.
Now the Port Townsend store has also fallen to competition. Grant Cable had worked to secure financing for holiday gift items, but was unable to find a commercial lender to fill the store's shelves. For months shoppers have lamented the declining merchandise.