A company that has been in business in Whitehall for 35 years abruptly closed its doors earlier this week.
Officials with Aubuchon Hardware announced Tuesday that the store was closing its doors due to declining sales.
The store was closed almost immediately.
“With much regret, the Aubuchon Hardware Company announces the closing of their Whitehall location. For the past 35 years, the company took pleasure in serving the hardware needs of the town of Whitehall and its surrounding communities,” according to a statement released Tuesday morning.
A similar announcement was posted on the front doors of the store.
The announcement was sudden and caught employees and residents off guard.
“It came as a little bit of a surprise,” branch manager Larry Rabideau said.
Village clerk Stephanie LaChapelle said a village employee who was at the store Tuesday morning was told by employees that the store was closing within 10 minutes and by Tuesday afternoon, the front windows of the store were covered in brown paper and an empty trailer set adjacent the building, presumably awaiting the store’s contents.
Rabideau said the store has five employees, all of whom have the option of keeping their jobs at neighboring Aubuchon Hardware locations.
“The company has been very gracious; everyone still has their jobs,” Rabideau said.
Several of the store’s employees were busy taking inventory of the stores contents Tuesday afternoon, while others were outside wrapping pallets of top soil, mulch and other products in plastic as they prepared the store’s contents to be shipped to other stores in the area.
One local resident, who declined to provide his name, said the closure is a big blow to the community.
“We don’t need any more empty store fronts. There’s enough of them already,” he said.
Mayor Peter Telisky said it was a big loss for the community, but wanted people to keep in mind that Whitehall has other stores, like MacLeod’s, to fill the gap.
“We’re hurting, but we aren’t out,” he said.
Telisky called the corporate offices of Aubuchon Hardware in Westminster, MA. and spoke with Daniel Aubuchon who expressed his regret but told him the store had been underperforming for a number of years.
“He said the store has been marginal for the last 10 years,” Telisky said.
The company has closed several underperforming stores throughout New England in the last several months, citing declining sales. Two branches in the Burlington area closed in January and another store in Port Henry closed a little over a year ago. A store in Rutland, Vt. closed in 2009 but has since re-opened in a new location.
In each instance, the stores were closed abruptly and without much notice, a protocol the company appears to follow at every store closing.
In Port Henry, officials from the company showed up around mid-morning, told everyone the store was closing and taped brown paper to the inside of the windows much like they did in Whitehall. They did the same at their AuSable Forks location in 2008.
Another location in Ticonderoga was reportedly targeted for closure but was at least temporarily spared that fate when Lowe’s announced they were closing their location in the community.
It’s unclear if the decision to keep the Ticonderoga store open had any impact on the company’s decision to close the branch in Whitehall.
The Whitehall branch was opened about 35 years ago in the plaza where the CVS Pharmacy and the dollar store are currently located, but the company purchased a new building at its current location at 192 Broadway about 20 years ago and moved there shortly thereafter, Rabideau said.
He said the company owns the building. It’s unclear if it will be put up for sale.
Aubuchon Hardware is a family-owned, Massachusetts-based chain with approximately 120 stores scattered throughout Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont and New York. The company was founded in 1908 by William Aubuchon Sr. and has become the nation’s largest chain of independent hardware stores.
In a prepared statement, the company said they appreciated the communities business and encouraged them to shop at nearby locations in Ticonderoga and Fair Haven, Vt.
Phone calls to the corporate offices at Aubuchon Hardware were not returned before this edition went to press.