End of two eras

Two longtime Central Kitsap businesses have recently called it quits, but for very different reasons. While a tough economic climate has ebbed Mt. Constance Mountain Shoppe’s success, prosperity increased each year for the past decade at Bogard’s Drugs. Both owners however are answering a call -- one to head home to Montana, the other to devote time to other business ventures.

Good-bye to the Mt. Shoppe

After 26 years on the cutting edge of the outdoor equipment business, Judd Flynn is closing up Shoppe and heading back to big sky country.

The Mt. Constance Mountain Shoppe in East Bremerton is closing its doors, most likely in June after everything is sold. Large liquidation signs are posted and if that’s not clear enough a gigantic We Quit sign is in the store’s front windows.

“I thought I’d be in it for maybe a year,” Flynn said Wednesday morning. Behind him, people enter the store, hunting for big discounts. Periodically he dashes off to find a size in this or one of those in his store that caters to the top-of-the-line, first on the market items.

But the slowing economy and fattening of America have curbed people’s enthusiasm for outdoor gear, Flynn said.

“The Kitsap County economy is in the tanker,” he said and the ski industry isn’t what it used to be. People tend to be more interested in computers these days and with the Internet, the market has gotten far more competitive.

Flynn and his brother started the business in a 1,000 square-foot space in the shopping center off Sylvan Way and Wheaton Way. They started with cross country skiing and expanded into other areas such as running, climbing, roller blading and biking. Their parents lived in Bremerton and it gave them access to the Olympic Peninsula.

“We kind of had Kitsap to ourselves for a while,” Flynn said. “It worked for a quarter of a century.”

The store moved to its current location at 1500 Riddell Road in the ’80s, where they occupy about 14,000 square feet. Throughout the years Mt. Constance has had as many as 30 employees during ski season. Currently it is has about 10. The business was prosperous in the 1980s and early 1990s, but in the late 1990s business began to decline.

A self described ski bum, Flynn moved to Bozeman, Mont., about 10 years ago and splits his time between there and Bremerton. Everything, including the fixtures must be sold.

“It’s been a fun ride. I don’t regret any of it,” Flynn said.

Bogard’s sells to Rite Aid

Bogard’s Drugs, the oldest fixture in Old Town Silverdale, shut its doors March 23 and the next day its pharmacy employees were working at the Silverdale Rite Aid.

Gordy and Dorothy Hawthorn sold everything to Rite Aid, where Dorothy and her team of six are now working full time.

“The first couple of days were frantic, there were tears,” when customers and Bogard’s employees learned of the sale. “They thought I was deathly ill or had left the country,” she said.

As soon as Dorothy stepped out of the Rite Aid pharmacy booth Thursday, about a half dozen waiting customers gave her hugs and chatted with her. She stresses the importance of having personal relationships with the customers.

“We are sometimes the first contact people have,” after hearing a diagnosis or having a medical crisis. Human compassion and love have to be part of that she said.

Before signing any sales agreement, the Hawthorns made sure their employees and customer service levels would be maintained including the delivery service.

Unlike other businesses, Bogard’s had not had financial woes.

“The amount of business we had was unbelievable. It grew the moment we bought it,” Gordy said.

This was not a case of the corporate giant pushing out the little guy he said.

“It was strictly a personal, quality of life decision.” he said. Working 80 hours a week for 10 years has worn them out. And with the two children leaving for college soon, the Hawthorns decided to slow down a bit and devote time to other things. Gordy hopes to start a completely different business in the next year, but declined to give details. Dorothy works 40 hours a week at Rite Aid as a pharmacist, something she has done for nearly 27 years.

The emotions in the past few weeks have run the gamut and so has the response from customers. Customers on Thursday seemed relieved to see familiar faces behind the glass and to see Dorothy.

But Gordy and his newspaper won’t be at the front of the store and he’ll miss the good-natured teasing from customers. At about 10 minutes after nine each morning the “community gabfest” would commence.

The unofficial city council meetings on Saturday mornings will have to meet somewhere else.

“It was still a gathering place. It was a lot of fun. There’s a lot of history here.” Gordy said in the store that is bare except for the fixtures. He said they’ll be out of the building by the end of the month.

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