Corbin H. Crable
Downtown Gardner will lose one of its most easily recognizable small businesses this fall – but not before it hosts a large sale in recognition of its longtime customers.
Rustic Connection, which specializes in western-themed home décor, will close its doors sometime in mid-October, according to owner Kris Leshovsky. She said she and her husband, David, decided to close the business for two main reasons.
“The economy, obviously, has not been kind to small stores,” said Leshovsky, who added that she knew the economic downturn was going to hit her business hard as early as 2009. “I also had a horseback riding accident in April 2007, and from that point on, I had to hire a full-time manager. A combination of being unable to work in any full-time capacity and the economy – it wasn’t a very good combination.”
Leshovsky said she and her husband have debated for months whether to close Rustic Connection, and that the decision, while difficult, was one that had to be made.
“We’ve been struggling for quite some time, and it was an extremely difficult decision,” she said. “I have a strong love of Gardner, and I’ve put my whole heart and soul into it. That’s not something you walk away from easily.”
It was a decision Leshovsky likely didn’t think she’d need to make when, six years ago, she and David bought part of the old building at the corner of Main and Elm streets. The Leshovskys pulled up their sleeves and made renovations to the building’s first floor in February 2004. The renovations lasted until June of that year, when Rustic Connection officially opened for business.
Rustic Connection’s first three years of existence saw the Leshovskys build lasting relationships with customers and healthy earnings, too. The business also hosted the works of many local artists, something of which Leshovsky said she is particularly proud.
“We support a lot of our local artists, and we had gotten to the point where 98 percent of our wall art was from local artists,” she said. “We opened the business (displaying the works of) 14 artists and three major companies, and now we’re closing with 43 artists and more than 55 individual companies.”
Although Rustic Connection saw its biggest year in sales in 2006, the business began to experience trouble when Leshovsky was involved in a horseback riding accident in the spring of 2007. And recently, the physical aches associated with that accident and the emotional pains that come with trying to keep a business afloat has meant Leshovsky has had to run her store from her own home – something made possible by technology.
“Since the first of the year, since I can’t be here every day, I can (log into an internal website for the store) from home and work my cash register from there,” Leshovsky noted. “I’m just trying to live my life as best I can.
Rustic Connection’s customers will have the chance to say goodbye to the store when it hosts a large going-out-of-business sale. That sale starts at 10 a.m. Thursday, Aug. 19 and will continue until the store shuts its doors in October.
In addition, Leshovsky said, Rustic Connection will host a prize contest, in which shoppers can earn points with each purchase they make. When the business closes in October, the store will tally the points earned by each customer, and the top 10 point collectors will win big-ticket items, including a big-screen TV and an iPod Nano. The contest prizes will be donated by Walmart.
As Leshovsky and her husband continue to ready the store for its big sale, the business owner reflected on the damage sustained by small-town businesses in an economy that has spelled big-time trouble as of late.
“The economy has slowed down our growth. It’s knocked everybody to their knees,” Leshovsky said. “Six businesses opened up within a month of us (in 2004), and a majority of those are now closed.”
Leshovsky said she isn’t sure what she wants to do with her portion of the downtown building after Rustic Connection closes, nor is she certain what the next chapter of her life will hold. But she does know one thing: Gardner, its residents and her customers will always remain special to her family.
“It’s not the things in my store. I’m not going to miss those things,” she said. “It’s the relationships I’ve built with my customers and their families. I’m going to miss them.”