After 33 years of providing customers with a cornucopia of items, HRK Variety Store owner Bernice Beach made one final, heart-wrenching sale.
“I sold the store,” Beach, 78, said. “It breaks my heart to do it but it was the right thing to do. I’ve got some health issues, and I felt like it was time.”
She also noted a lack of customers as a reason for selling the store and its entire inventory to Augusta couple John and Joan Diver.
“She’s a retired beauty operator and he was a refinery worker,” she said. “They are planning on keeping everything as close to the way I did it as they can.”
The business’s name will remain the same, and for now, so will its hours, Beach said.
“I’m leaving with a heavy heart,” she said. “I loved all the people, and 99 percent of our customers became my friends. They were like extended family.”
With those connections also came a sense of duty.
“I felt like I contributed something valuable to this town,” she said. “When Duckwall’s closed, we started carrying a line of things they carried, and when Marion Hardware closed we started carrying hardware items. There was no way that we would ever close. Not even after the fire we had 16 years ago.”
Beach and her late husband, Jim, bought the original HRK building in 1983, which stood where TC’s What Not Shop now sits.
She said the letters HRK stood for three men’s names — Hillogose, Riley, and Kerbs.
“When we bought the building where we are now, the building was half dirt floors and exposed rafters,” Beach said. “We poured cement and added sheetrock as we made money. Then we bought the old Phillips 66 station because we needed more storage and parking.”
She said her grandkids thought up a clever acronym for the business that became a family nickname based on Jim’s passion for the store.
“They called it ‘His Retirement Kingdom,’” Beach said. “It was a challenge to run by myself after I lost my husband seven years ago, but I did it and I proved something to myself.”
She said the business world used to be a man’s world but she knew women could succeed at business, too.
“It’s easy to when you like what you’re doing,” Beach said. “We always treated people like we wanted to be treated.
She plans to spend more time with her grandchildren, attend their sporting events, do farm work, and catch up on things.
“I’ll probably float around out there a while and try to get my bearings,” Beach said. “I plan on spending half my time with friends in Marion.”