TERRE HAUTE —
In 1998, Jay Jones started to buy several buildings in the 12 Points area on Terre Haute’s north side as a way to keep the neighborhood afloat.
In September 2011, he opened Tilford’s 5 & 10, housing it in his building at 1279 Lafayette Ave. He described it as “sort of like Custer’s last stand.”
Now, Jones plans to close the small business by the end of December, sooner if inventory runs out.
“It has ended like Custer’s last stand. Twelve Points has become a ghost town,” Jones said, “and I ran out of money. We just did not have the sales.”
Ironically, Jones decided to close the variety story on Black Friday, the same day Tilford’s variety store founder Cecil Tilford died at age 87. He and his wife, Doris, opened the store in 1968 and operated it for more than 40 years.
“It was not a last-minute decision. The timing was kind of ironic, if nothing else,” Jones said.
Jones said competition from corporate stores such as Dollar General reduced his business. “They are becoming the neighborhood stores,” he said of Dollar General.
“It is a combination of factors. I think people’s shopping habits are just very difficult to change. People are inclined to run to Dollar General or out to Walmart,” Jones said.
Jones said people “loved the store, but there is a difference between loving a store and supporting a store. Nostalgia is great, but it does not pay the bills.
“It is an era that has past. I think the concept was sound, but it just needs a lot more money, a lot more advertising. I knew it was a long shot,” he said.
“We ran commercials for a while, which I think helped, but we could not afford to keep doing commercials,” Jones said. “After we stopped the commercials, everything just kind of dropped off,” he said of his business, which he advertised from November to May of 2011.
The variety store, Jones said, has not been breaking even financially. He is closing the store as a way to avoid bankruptcy, he said. Jones first opened Tilford’s store because he was having trouble renting out the building on Lafayette Avenue and hoped it would spur other small businesses to locate nearby.
Jones bought his first building in 1998 and now has several others in the 12 Points area.
“Originally we wanted to restore the building and rent it out. We did that in 1998 and over the last 14 years everything has gone in 12 Points. There are a lot of buildings, but nobody made the investments in them, so they are shells more or less. And the banks don’t want to finance much right now, a lot of it is the economy,” Jones said.
“I stretched myself too thin. I don’t know what will happen to the buildings at this point. I am hoping to rent them out,” Jones said. “I don’t know what will happen to the area. My hope is that other people eventually come here and buy some buildings and do some work to open some businesses, but nothing has materialized,” Jones said.
“It was my hope all along, but it has gone in the opposite direction,” he said.
Jones said he still owes property taxes on the buildings he owns. “It has been an interesting experience. I am no businessman, I am kind of a dreamer. I have learned a lot about myself doing this,” he said.
Reporter Howard Greninger can be reached at 812-231-4204 or firstname.lastname@example.org.