LAURA — At the end of this month, Roark Furs in Laura, the Miami Valley’s last fur specialist, will be closing.
Currently owned by Linda Long and Larry Day, the business has changed hands several times since it opened in 1939.
Roark Furs is a full-service furrier and has offered new and pre-owned furs, fur cleaning and repairing, fur restyling, storage, and custom-made fur teddy bears for decades.
The business will be closing at the end of the month so that the owners can retire.
“It’s a tough industry and it’s hard to find anyone who’s knowledgeable enough to run a fur shop … We hate that we’re closing, but we couldn’t find anybody to take over our business,” Long said. “And I’m ready to retire.”
Day and Long bought the business from their former employer, previous store owner Jim Darrah in 1996.
Long is a second-generation furrier. She’s been in the business for 37 years and was trained in fur cutting by her mother, who worked for two of the store’s previous owners.
“She came out of retirement to train me in fur cutting,” Long said. “She probably worked another 10 years with me and then retired again. And when Larry and I bought the business, she came back and worked for me!”
Long’s daughter also worked at the shop.
“There for a while, we had three generations working there at the store,” she added.
Day started in the business making deliveries for Darrah, before becoming a fur cleaning specialist. Long specialized in restyling and repairs.
The pair has seen the fur industry change a lot in recent years.
“The fur industry’s taken a big hit in the last few years. A lot of people think it’s because of animal rights activists, but really it’s not. It’s basically mild winters and the economy,” Long explained.
People don’t want to make the investment in new furs because the weather isn’t cold enough to wear them very often, she said. On the other hand, sales of used furs have “gone crazy,” Long added.
Closing is bittersweet, Long said, because she hates to leave the customers she’s gotten to know over the years, but she’s ready to start her retirement.
“We’re very service oriented and we know our customers very well. We just hate that we’re not able to service them any longer,” she said.
She said she came to the decision to retire in order to spend more time with her family, and maybe do some traveling with her husband while their health is still good. It helped that the owner of the building, Tom Wagner of Wagner Paving, was looking for a place to expand his business and “made her an offer she couldn’t refuse,” she added.
She will likely continue making real fur teddy bears, which have long been popular items in the store.
The remaining merchandise in the store is priced to sell, with many items priced at cost, Long said.
Roark Furs is located at 2 N. Main St. in Laura.
Reach Cecilia at [email protected]