- Associated Press - Friday, November 13, 2015

MURPHYSBORO, Ill. (AP) - Shirley Summers remembers working at Gillenberg’s Furniture in high school, when her dad owned the Murphysboro store, but after 61 years of business, the furniture store is closing its doors.

Summers has owned the store officially since late 1985 but has been leading the way for her late father, Joe Gillenberg, since late 1982. She said she is ready to take time away from being a business owner and enjoy some time outside of Southern Illinois.

“I am tired,” she said. “I want to do some traveling.”

Summers said the business is still surviving, but it has gotten harder and harder each month.

“We are making it, so it is not like we aren’t paying the bills, but it is not as near as profitable as it used to be,” she said.

Summers’ son, Joe Summers, has been working at the store since he was young. He said he started when he was 12 or 13, sweeping floors or doing odd jobs. He agrees with his mother’s decision to close the store, saying the profits just aren’t there.

“If you are only breaking even, why continue to do it?” he said.

Summers said she and her staff of three, all of whom have been with the business for several years, struggled with the decision to close for the past year or so before making the ultimate choice.

“This has been a very sad decision,” she said.

Increasing Internet shopping, big-box competitors and lack of qualified help were all contributing factors in the closing.

Summers shared memories of working in the store when she was younger and of how her father used to line the shelves with small appliances from toasters to vacuum cleaners. Now, the store carries only large appliances. She said Gillenberg would buy five to 10 of a particular product, but the distributors quit allowing him to so because he wasn’t buying enough. Larger stores were purchasing items in bulk.

“It was getting to the point where we were buying products for more than the competition was selling it for,” Summers said.

She said she has enjoyed meeting several people through the years and serving generations upon generations of families who have walked through the doors at 901 Walnut St.

“We have had some really great customers who have been with us for possibly the entire 61 years,” Summers said. “There are some people where everything in their house is from us.”

Although the store has announced its closing, Summers said there will be one last closeout sale through December. She said she wants to be done with the business by the end of the year.

Once the business is closed, Summers will look into the possible options as to what to do with the building, which she owns.

There are rumors that the county wants to buy the building in an effort to consolidate its offices in one spot. Jackson County already owns the Willis and Crain buildings connected to the furniture store, according to Jackson County Chairman John Rendleman.

He said Thursday that there hasn’t been any formal discussion by the county board about buying the building, but there have been informal discussions about how it would be a good thing if the county owned the block of buildings as it considers consolidation of office buildings.

One option for the county would be to demolish the three buildings on the block, if it can acquire the furniture store building and build new office space for its employees.

“There seems to be a consensus that if we are going to build offices, that it ought to be close to the courthouse,” Rendleman said.

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Source: The (Carbondale) Southern Illinoisan, http://bit.ly/1WLU765

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Information from: Southern Illinoisan, http://www.southernillinoisan.com

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