By Charlie Bermant and Julie McCormick
Peninsula Daily News
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"I've had customers crying at my checkstand today," said store manager Grant Cable on Saturday after a liquidation sale began.
"They're really upset that there's not going to be a store anymore."
The closure of the Port Townsend store will not affect Swain's General Store in Port Angeles, which has a different owner. Swain Cable's sister, Rebecca Gedlund, owns Swain's General Store.
Cable said the decision to close Swain's Outdoor at 1121 Water St. in Port Townsend was made on Friday "after a company that was going to buy us out decided against it."
"We have exhausted all the possibilities," he said early Saturday.
"We couldn't make it work."
However, later in the day, Cable said that he had word that some kind of sporting goods and housewares store might replace Swain's Outdoor.
He said two companies, neither now based on the North Olympic Peninsula, had expressed interest in purchasing the lease on the building and the fixtures. He did not know when that might happen.
"There's uncertainty if we will find a purchaser for it," Cable said.
"I just want to give a little hope."
Cable manages the store for his parents, Glenda Swain Cable and Dick Cable, who had also owned the Swain's Outdoor store in Sequim.
Swain's Outdoor in Sequim closed last summer, and its inventory was moved to the Port Townsend store.
During this winter's storms, Swain's Outdoor was the only place in downtown Port Townsend to buy winter wear and sales were brisk, but inventory could not be replaced for the holiday rush, Cable said.
During the past few months, the business was unable to secure a line of credit to purchase additional merchandise and many shelves were left bare, he said.
Two signs were placed outside the store on Saturday and a larger one will be posted on Monday, Cable said.
The notice drew customers who wanted to get the goods before they are gone.
"Between today and yesterday, our business is up 300 percent," Cable said.
Everything has been discounted by 30 percent. Seasonal goods -- anything to do with a holiday from Halloween through New Year's -- already had been marked down 50 percent, so those goods are going for 80 percent off, Cable said.
Customers wandering the aisles at Swain's Outdoor in Port Townsend on Saturday expressed mixed feelings about news that the store may close or be sold to new owners.
Jeanie Glaspell said she was "very surprised," but added, "The way things have been going it looked like this was inevitable. Every time I came in here, there was nobody in here."
Glaspell, a school counselor, said she had always counted on Swain's for the wardrobe basics she sometimes needed to buy for needy students.
"The last time I came in to get things, they didn't have what I needed," said Glaspell, who's shopped at Swain's or its predecessor for 20 years.
Phil Smith of Sequim was in Swain's checking out the camping gear and a bit excited at the chance to save some money during the liquidation sale.
He's been shopping at Swain's since 1998, he said.
"I always come here to look for stuff."
Cable said there is no definite closure date.
The building's lease extends to September, and the owners plan to maintain the space until then or until the fixtures and lease are sold, he added.
Aside from Cable, five employees still work at the store, three full-time and three part-time.
"This will be hard for all our employees and it will be hard on the town," he said, although he hopes that, if a purchaser is found, that company also will hire the present workers.
The Port Townsend store occupies approximately 17,000 square feet, subdivided into a clearance store and regular space.
Frank Finney of Port Townsend said, as he looked through the merchandise on Saturday, that the closure was a shame.
"It's been kind of an unusual store throughout its history," he said.
"This is an institution and it's sad to see an institution go away."
Jefferson County Reporter Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Julie McCormick is a freelance writer and photographer living in Port Townsend. Phone her at 360-385-4645 or e-mail email@example.com.
Managing Editor/News Leah Leach also contributed to this report.