Melodie Ingwersens plan after moving to Columbia in the mid-1980s was to help out part time in a new toy store a friend was opening on Saluda Avenue in Five Points.
After less than a year of managing the store, she and her husband, Lowell, bought it.
I didnt really imagine Id do this 25 years, said the owner of Creative Kids, who is closing the shop 725 Saluda Ave. at the end of the month. Were serving the grandchildren of the (customers) we started with.
But a sea change in the way consumers shop as well as the challenges of having three teenagers at home has prompted Ingwersen to shutter the business for good.
Its getting more and more challenging to do it profitably, she said. Folks are using their smartphones to scan bar codes and find the best possible deal on items often from online retailers who dont charge tax and often offer free shipping.
Thats a different ballgame than competing locally or regionally, she said. Even when customers ask her to match the price, it leaves little to no margin for profit.
That is just the start of whats happening, she said. Things will just be configured differently (in retail) than they are right now. This was a time that we could exit honorably and so thats what were doing.
But Ingwersen leaves feeling rich in the return of people who have been so kind.
When she bought the specialty toy store, she hoped that it would become a place that evoked happy childhood memories for a generation. And saying goodbye to longtime customers who bought for their children and now buy for their grandchildren has proven to her that the store fulfilled that purpose.
We actually accomplished what we started to do, she said.
Ingwersen, who taught high school art for 10 years before moving to Columbia, said she will take the summer off to be with her children and then turn her sights on a new direction. Her husband will continue to run their apartment rental business.
Meanwhile, merchandise is marked down at the store as Ingwersen moves toward her closing date of April 28.
And another locally owned business plans to open in the Creative Kids spot in July after two months of renovations to the building, she said. It will be a gift shop that will carry some toys, she said, but she did not have further details.