Longtime children’s store in Homewood hanging it up
BY STEVE METSCH firstname.lastname@example.org January 31, 2013 11:16AM
Natalie Peinovich, of Homer Glen, shops for her great grandson's birthday at Little Colony Kids in Homewood, Ill., Jan. 16, 2013. The children's clothing store is closing after 57 years of business in the Southland. | Joseph P. Meier~Sun-Times Media
Updated: March 5, 2013 6:06AM
Memories are flowing deep these days at Little Colony Kids in Homewood.
It seems that every shopper at the children’s clothing store in Cherry Creek Plaza, 183rd Street and Governors Highway, has a story to share with owner Susan Falb or with employees.
Some get teary-eyed because the store, after 57 years in business, is closing its doors, another victim of the faltering economy.
The date for the last day has not been set, but it’s coming once all the inventory has been sold, said Falb, who owns the store with her sister.
Banners reading “Store Closing” are in the windows. Inside, shoppers find discount prices on everything from baptismal gowns to Easter outfits to a young man’s first suit.
Shopping for a 4-year-old great-grandson, Natalie Peinovich, of Homer Glen, summed up the feelings of many.
“I’m bummed,” she said, “because they sell things for children here. They don’t sell teeny-bopper clothes for little girls. Children are still children in this store.
“The prices are good; probably a little more expensive than other places, but the quality is right with the price.”
Falb and her sister, Mary Kuiper, bought the store 19 years ago from their mother, Agnes Kuiper, who died four years ago, and their aunt, Gert Vroom.
Vroom and Agnes Kuiper opened the store in Chicago’s Roseland community in 1955 — a time when it was rather unusual for two women to embark on a career in retail, Falb said.
“They were not married and said to their father, ‘We want our own business.’ They knew nothing about kids’ clothing, yet they made it. They worked hard,” Falb said.
Jaimi Welsh, 42, of Frankfort, said her mother often shopped at the store to find matching clothes for her and twin brother Jeremy. Now Welsh is shopping for young relatives.
“It’s sad when the little guys can’t stay in business because of the big-box stores,” Welsh said.
The slow-to-recover economy has taken its toll, said Falb, who is considering having online-only sales after the final garment is sold.
“My expenses go up. My taxes go up. It’s a tough economy,” said Falb, 48, of Flossmoor. “When (customers) are unemployed or underemployed, they do not need to buy a better dress or coat. They’ll go to a lesser-quality store.”
The decision to close the 5,000-square-foot store was made in December.
“It’s just getting harder each year. It’s not as fun. If I saw a better future maybe we’d keep going. I’m just not seeing it,” Falb said.
Long gone are the 1980s, when sales skyrocketed.
“You couldn’t do anything wrong then,” she said.
She’s heard from many customers about how much the store has meant to them over the years.
Pat Streeter, of Harvey, fondly recalled shopping there for her children. Now she shops for her three youngest grandsons. The two youngest, ages 5 and 4, were thrilled by the jackets she recently bought for them.
“I’m not sure where I’ll shop now because this was unique. It had up-to-date fashions you don’t see every place else. You know when you get something here, it’s going to be quality,” Streeter said.
The closing is hard on customers, but also hard on employees who have enjoyed working there and wonder where their next jobs will be.
Julie Akin, of Orland Hills, for example, has worked at Little Colony Kids for nearly eight years.
“I enjoy working here,” she said as she helped daughter Haley, 4, who was busy trying on dresses that had been marked down for the sale.
Falb has hired Charles Reilly, a sales consultant for Wingate Sales Solutions, a Kansas-based company that handles going-out-of-business sales.
“When times are good, we run a lot of promotional sales,” Reilly said. “Times are very bad now. We’ve been busy.”
Little Colony Kids is open from 9:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays; and 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays. The store is closed Sundays.
For more information, visit www.littlecolonykids.com.