By Brianna Joy Taylor
Calhoun’s, a downtown gift store on Broadway, closed in early August after 29 years of business in Columbia.
“I’m old enough that I don’t have to do this anymore if I don’t want to,” said store owner Lisa Klenke about the closing.
As a Boone County resident and MU graduate with a degree in interior design, Klenke’s decision to start her business was based on familiarity.
She grew up watching her parents own a small business, and when she graduated from college, she knew that’s what she wanted to do.
Klenke recalled her mother and business partner, Betty Frech, telling her that she would help for the first four years. Twenty-nine years later, Klenke said she would miss working with her mother the most.
“She needed me, and I enjoyed it, for the most part. It was fun,” Frech said. “We both had our specialties. She was really good with the customers, and I was better with the books.”
Klenke said her mother has not worked at the store a great deal in the last 15 years, but she could always call her when she needed help.
“I say it was pretty full-time until my life changed, and I didn’t come in unless we got a big order or something happened that she needed extra help,” Frech said.
Calhoun’s has survived numerous changes over the years, including a change in location and a shift in products.
The store opened in 1990 on Old Highway 63. For the first three years, it sold accent furniture pieces and interior design merchandise.
It wasn’t until the move to Broadway that the store morphed into a medium-to-high-end gift destination shop to attract the downtown clientele.
Klenke said she wanted everyone to have something when they walked out of the store. She also said the furniture industry changed, and it became difficult to make a profit.
Frech explained that the change happened gradually, and what they sold depended on what customers were interested in at the time.
“Our customers dictated what kind of merchandise we were going to buy when we went to the market,” Frech said.
Klenke said the retail climate has changed since she began her business in 1990 and stressed the importance of younger business owners taking advantage of spaces within The District.
Social media can be effective with a younger generation, but it’s a strategy that needs to be used more than she was willing to, Klenke said.
“It’s time for someone younger with more energy to take over,” Klenke said. “There’s still money to be made in retail downtown.”
Customers often believe that every business closure in the area is due to the inability to afford rent, and that is not true, Klenke said.
Downtown Columbia remains alive and well, she said.
Klenke plans to remain in Columbia, help her husband with his business and appreciate her new freedom.
“We were both pretty green, we‘ve never done retail before, so there was a lot to learn, and we learned a lot,” Frech said. “It’s just time to move on to something else.”
Calhoun’s last day of operations was Aug. 3.
When asked what she is going to miss most about her business, Klenke said, “I’m going to miss my customers.”