Longtime Downtown Blacksburg shop joins list of closing businesses

BLACKSBURG, Va. (WDBJ7) A longtime Downtown Blacksburg business is closing this week, joining several others including another staple of the New River Valley that could not stay open.

The Clothes Rack has been open for 34 years. The owner, Jennifer Shelor, has been taking care of her sick husband for nearly a decade.

On top of that, she had some issues hiring staff, which has been a constant issue for all businesses here in Downtown.

Business at The Clothes Rack has always been good, despite moving to three different locations in the same number of decades.

But this summer, Shelor had a problem when the landlord had to put in a sprinkler system.

"They had to tear up my whole store for a month, during Steppin' Out and the beginning of Tech, which was a big blow because that was a big month," she said. "After that I just decided it might be time to go."

On top of that, she can only work part time as she's caring for her husband who used to work in the store with her.

"I've had several kids working, but what I needed was someone to take my place, and it's hard to find someone," she explained. "No one can run your store like you can."

Staffing is the big issue in all of Downtown with many businesses needing to hire.

The Director of Downtown Blacksburg, Inc. Laureen Blakemore explained, "Of course the students are here, but there are a lot of jobs available on campus which may be easier, may be able to pay at a rate that our businesses certainly cannot compete against."

Blakemore also closed her business this past year after it became too hard to manage.

"Our business, and certainly every other small business, are really facing the challenge of more and more people shopping online," she explained. "That certainly showed in the trends over Small Business Saturday weekend, Cyber Monday was up in a huge way."

Shelor tells me her favorite part of owning a small shop will always be interacting with her customers in store, as opposed to using online.

The store's last day is Thursday.

While so many storefronts are now empty, there are new businesses coming into Downtown.

A restaurant is set to open where Pita Vera was and a new escape room is already open with another one coming in January.

But for these businesses and any other favorites here in town to stay open, Blakemore said it's important to go to them as frequently as possible.