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Baker Furniture leaving after 112 years

Staff writer

Signs in day-glow orange and green and posters staked into the ground along the highway tell the tale.

Baker Furniture is leaving Peabody after 112 years as a downtown anchor.

“We didn’t come to this decision lightly,” co-owner Sheryl Baker said Monday.

She and her husband, Brock, own the furniture and carpet business, which occupies nearly a dozen downtown buildings.

“Neither of us wanted things to end this way,” she said. “I know there are some stories floating around about us being unhappy over things that have happened here over the years, but none of that has anything to do with us moving the business to Newton.

“We are simply at a point where there are few American factories making home furnishings, there are big chain stores buying cheaper merchandise overseas, and people just don’t want to drive all the way out here for furniture.”

The stores employees, fixtures, carpet, and furniture will move, probably in late summer or early fall, to the Outlet Mall just south of Newton.

“That will put us closer to Wichita and a larger customer base,” she said. “Although gas prices aren’t as bad as they were a year ago, we don’t know how stable they are or if they will go up again.”

She also cited deaths of nine people in accidents along U.S. 50 while repairs were being made to the highway.

“The Wichita Eagle had those big headlines about it being the deadliest highway in Kansas, and that really hurt us,” she said. “They even ran the stories over again for a year-end edition as one of the biggest stories of the year. Shoppers are aware of those things.”

Baker Funeral Home will remain in Peabody as will the store’s carpet warehouse in the 200 block of North Walnut Street.

“We still will have carpet delivered there,” she said.

She said the couple had made no decision yet on the fate of the other buildings the store currently uses.

“All I can say right now is that we will have to wait and see,” she said.

Baker indicated they hoped to have the move completed by fall.

Peabody Main Street and economic development director Shane Marler said the city’s economic development committee was trying to look at the bright side.

“We obviously don’t want to see a business like Baker’s leave Peabody,” he said. “They have been a big influence in the business community for more than 100 years. But this is the hand we have been dealt and we need to look at it as an opportunity.

“When a business leaves it opens up some retail space. We might be able to help another business expand or recruit a new business for Peabody.”

Marler said several projects were in the works and at least a couple of the potential businesses are looking at downtown retail space.

He said he had let the Bakers know of the interest, but “nothing firm is on the table.”

Marler said he hoped the community would continue to be positive about Peabody’s future.

“Actually I am really excited because Peabody economic development is taking an aggressive new approach to the recruitment of new businesses to our community,” he said. “We are looking at the empty buildings as an asset rather than a liability.

“Part of the Baker legacy will remain, and we are glad of that. We will just have to treat their leaving as an opportunity and move forward.”

Last modified June 18, 2009

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