2016-10-21 / Front Page

Downtown staple, Marlows, to close

By Wm. Duke Harrington Staff Writer


Sheryl Hussey, left, co-manager of Marlows, and longtime employee Joanne Rich, take a moment in the card aisle of the popular gift shop, which is slated to close after 34 years sometime after the holidays. (Duke Harrington photo) Sheryl Hussey, left, co-manager of Marlows, and longtime employee Joanne Rich, take a moment in the card aisle of the popular gift shop, which is slated to close after 34 years sometime after the holidays. (Duke Harrington photo) KENNEBUNK — For Main Street mainstay Marlows cards and gifts, it’s time to call it a day after more than 30 years in business.

Store owner Martha Hussey has announced she will be closing up shop after the holidays.

“The lease was expiring and the best option was to close, unfortunately,” Hussey said on Tuesday. “I’m very sad about it. I’ve certainly enjoyed the privilege of meeting so many nice people, and customers who have been so loyal over the years. But it’s a lot of hard work. That’s just the way it is.”

Hussey’s daughter-in-law, Sheryl Hussey, who has co-managed the shop for the past four years, said Marlows will be fully stocked until the doors closed, having ordered this year’s Christmas line before the decision was made to make this the last season.

Marlows was founded in 1982 by Jean Mullenaux, who named the gift store after her daughter. Originally housed in the Lafayette Center, the store moved to the Ross Block in 1994 and to Park Square in 1999, before downsizing into its current home at 58 Main St. in 2013.

After working for Mullenaux for several years, Martha Hussey bought the business in 2003.

Although it’s been under two owners and in four locations, it’s 34-year tenure makes Marlows one of, if not the oldest retail store on Main Street.

“That would not surprise me,” said Laura Dolce, executive director of the Kennebunk-Kennebunkport-Arundel Chamner of Commerce. “I’m trying to think of anything else that might be close, but I can’t think of one. I’m not aware of anything on Main Street that’s older, as far as retail.”

“On a personal level, I’m really sad, because I shop there a lot,” Dolce said. “I really enjoyed the customer service and personal touches you don’t find much anymore. You certainly don’t find that kind of thing at the mall, or the big box stores. That’s the kind of service you really need to go to downtown shops for.”

Martha Hussey said she briefly considered putting Marlows on the market, before deciding that simply closing would be the best option. She’d still consider an offer, should one be made, she said, but otherwise the plan to close before the lease is up at the end of January.

Sheryl Hussey said Marlows ultimately fell victim to changing shopping patterns.

“Younger people buy online,” she said. “But then even our seasoned clientele doesn’t shop like it used to. Between the recession, and the rebuilding of downtown — though it looks lovely now — and Garden Street Market closing, we took a big hit. It’s just not like it used to be.”

While Sheryl Hussey praised construction of the Waterhouse Center, as she did the Main Street rebuild, attendance there tends to be event driven, she said, with few people lingering to shop along Main Street.

“It’s nice to have the people downtown, but it doesn’t pay the bills,” she said, voicing hope that the bowling alley proposed for the former Garden Street Market building will result in restoring some of its lost foot traffic. But, by then, Marlows will be closed.

Still, Dolce said she doesn’t expect the windows to be vacant for very long.

“I think it’s sad to lose an anchor like Marlows that’s been there so long,” she said. “It just shows how hard it is for some of those high-quality shops to compete alongside the big box stores. But we have folks all the time coming into the chamber office looking for retail space, and we just don’t have much to offer. So, while it is sad to see it go, I don’t think it will be empty for very long.”

Whatever fills the spot, it will do so without Joanne Rich, one of four Marlows employees, who has logged more than a quarter century on Main Street retail shops and says she’ll be easing into retirement.

“I’ve loved it here,” she said. “I could never hope to work with such a great group of girls ever again.”

Staff Writer Duke Harrington can be reached at news@kennebunkpost.com.

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