VALPARAISO | As he prepares to close the doors for good on the local Fetla's Trading Post, co-owner Ken Banks said the store at one time was very much like the modern day Wal-Mart.
"You could go there and get everything you needed," he said.
By everything, he means electrical and plumbing supplies, window shades, furniture, clothes and groceries, alongside liquor, guns, knives, other assorted weapons, go carts, lawn mowers and various animal feed. Shoppers were even treated to a live bear in a cage at one point in the store's history.
Changing times and the appearance of larger chain stores cut into Fetla's business and forced the retailer to focus more narrowly on hunting, fishing and sporting goods. The competition then became too much with the recent arrival of Bass Pro Shops and Cabela's, Banks said.
"They ate up that business," he said.
Banks, who has worked at the store for more than 30 years and co-owned the business for the last two years, plans to close the doors for good in another 30 to 40 days. Any merchandise not sold during the current 30 percent-off sale will be transferred to the recently-opened location at 18 South Main St. in Knox.
He has no idea what will become of the 30,000-square-foot building along Ind. 2.
The local Fetla's store had survived a few earlier challenges during its more than 90 years in operation. The company was among several local gun shops sued in 1999 by the city of Gary as alleged sources of handguns used in crimes. It then filed to reorganize under Chapter 11 in federal bankruptcy court in 2004.
Valparaiso resident Bill Rhodes was among the shoppers sorting through sale merchandise Friday morning.
"We always liked this place," he said, looking back on 40 years of shopping at the store. "If Fetla's did not have it, it wasn't made. That's what we used to say."
He was saddened by news of the closing and said he feels these local retailers give up the fight too early against the larger box stores. He believes customers would return after the novelty of the larger stores wears off and they realize the larger stores are more expensive.
Valparaiso resident Britta Neinast, who was visiting Fetla's for the first time Friday, agreed.
"People love the local stores," she said.