APPLETON, Wis. (WBAY) - A staple on College Avenue in downtown Appleton announces it's closing.
Gabriel Furniture building occupied the corner of College Ave. and Morrison St. in downtown Appleton since 1928 (WBAY photo)
Since 1928, Gabriel Furniture has occupied the corner of College Ave. and Morrison St.
First owned by Joseph Gabriel, the business and building were sold to employee Joe Wells and his wife, Ruby, back in the late 1980s.
"Started a long time ago, yeah," Joe Wells said. "Started really on the floor repairing furniture here, and then more and more on the floor, then in '88 we purchased the business from Mr. Gabriel."
And for the last 31 years, the Wells have successfully run Appleton's iconic downtown furniture store.
"Ninety-one years is a pretty long run. It's also very different that Mr. Gabriel, Joseph and myself. We are the two owners of the business over 91 years and we're still in the same building. That's really different," Joe Wells said.
But when the Wells were approached by a couple of developers interested in that building and the property, the couple who has dedicated the last three decades to the business decided it was time to retire.
"We weren't actively pursuing anything with the building, but when it looked like there might be some opportunities presenting themselves we were very excited about that, because this has been a pretty special place to us, and it's just nice to know that there are other people that are interested in the building that we've loved for so long," Ruby Wells said.
While the Wells won't say what plans the developers have for the building, Appleton city officials are confident, even with the long-running business closing, that the property will continue to thrive.
"That whole block is really part of our TIF 11 Redevelopment Plan, so I think there's a lot of interest there and a lot of opportunity, and I think we'll see something probably pretty soon," the city's Chad Doran said.
It's a decision the Wells say their 15 employees, both full- and part-time, are embracing.
The Wells don't have a date for the store to close but they'll prepare with a big sale starting in the middle of the month -- as they look forward to what retirement has in store for them.
"Forty-five years we've done this. We feel long enough, and it's time," Joe Wells said. "In our personal lives, we've got a new little grandson and a three-year-old grandson, and it's going to be time to spend quality time playing with them. And we like to travel, too. There's a lot of things we haven't been able to do."
"It's hard. We're going to miss the customers and the people we work with and the people downtown, but we can still come downtown and enjoy downtown as just regular people enjoying what downtown has to offer," Ruby Wells said.