End of an Era
After decades serving generations of Boone residents and visitors, Boone Drug's downtown location closed quietly on Saturday.
The store offered major discounts to clear shelves of remaining merchandise, and employees bid farewell to the worn wood floors, rustic charm and large glass windows that watch the hustle and bustle outside 617 W. King St.
"We're sad that we're having to do this, but we're also trying to focus our attention on the other areas that we have," pharmacist and Boone Drug co-owner John Stacy said Friday.
Stacy said the ownership decided only during the last couple of months that the store was no longer a worthwhile operation. Even on Friday, some customers were learning for the first time that the store was closing.
The location transferred its pharmacy operations about five years ago to the Boone Drug-Greenway store, and its beloved fountain and grill closed at the end of 2011 to make way for the F.A.R.M. Cafe. The cafe, where diners pay what they can afford, will remain active in its current space on the east side of the building, Stacy said.
With the store's primary customers being served in other ways and locations, the downtown site focused primarily on sales of ice cream, gifts and sundries.
"We've kind of served our purpose downtown," Stacy said. "... We feel like we can possibly get something else in there that would be more vibrant or more exciting for the town."
Stacy said most of the staff members who worked downtown already have transferred to other sites, and he said the few remaining probably will work with Boone Drug in other capacities. He said he did not expect any job losses.
The closure will not affect any of the Boone Drug chain's other locations, which are spread across Western North Carolina and eastern Tennessee, he added.
Boone Drug is now seeking another tenant to fill the downtown space.
"We've had several inquiries, but we want to make sure to get the right person in there," Stacy said.
The closure was a sad occasion for many employees and patrons.
"It's really with mixed emotion everybody's going to let it go," said store manager Scotty Prevost. "... It's been a great ride."
Prevost said business has been on the decline for some time, but the shop still drew numerous regulars, from downtown workers to Appalachian State University students.
With the closure of Boone Drug, the building now has an opportunity to weave new layers into its tapestry.
Boone Drug's original store was established in 1919 across the street, where Mast General Store now sits.
The current location also held a doctor's office on the top floor for much of the mid-1900s.
"Before there was a hospital in Boone, babies were delivered upstairs in this building," Prevost said.
For years, the fountain was a community gathering space for locals to talk politics, tell jokes and chow down.
Prevost said she's excited to see what's next for the space, located in the heart of the historic downtown.
"Things do change," she said. "Without change, we wouldn't have butterflies. So I'm looking forward to seeing what butterfly's going to show up."