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TOUGH TIMES SIGNAL END FOR CRAFT WORLD.

Byline: Edward Russo The Register-Guard

Weakened by competition and without a buyer in sight, Eugene-based Craft World will close its six hobby and craft stores and go out of business during the next year or two.

Craft World owners Randy and Mako Schoening of Eugene will shut their stores because a three-year search to find a buyer has proved fruitless, said General Manager Dennis Phillips.

"The owners have been doing this for 28 years and they really want to retire," he said.

The Craft World in Corvallis, already selling merchandise at deep discounts, this weekend will be the first outlet to close.

The remaining five stores, including one apiece in Eugene and Springfield, will close in the next year or so, Phillips said. Closing dates for the stores have yet to be determined.

Craft World is the latest retailer to be knocked out of business by the one-two punch of intense competition and the weak economy.

Eugene-based Troutman's Emporium is liquidating its 34 clothing stores. Kmart Corp., based in Troy, Mich., has closed its Springfield outlet and is clearing out its Eugene store. In early 2001, Montgomery Ward & Co. closed its stores, including its Eugene outlet.

Phillips declined to disclose sales or profit figures of privately owned Craft World, but said sales hit a peak about 1999, when the chain had 100 employees. It now has about 60 workers.

Craft World sells supplies for art, needlework, candle making, and wood-working. It carries dried flowers, baskets, party supplies, picture frames and many other items.

Phillips said competition from national chains, such as Michael's Arts & Crafts, Hobby Lobby and Jo-Ann Fabrics & Crafts, have hurt Craft World, as have big-box discounters, dollar stores and Internet merchants.

Customers of the Eugene Craft World on West Seventh Avenue said they will miss the chain.

"We felt fortunate that if you were missing a piece of black felt for your child's lamb costume, it was just around the corner," said Chris Watchie, who lives within a half-mile of the store.

Holding an armful of picture frames, Watchie said store employees are helpful and seem to enjoy their jobs.

Watchie valued Craft World as a source of craft items.

However, she was unimpressed with the addition during the past few years of inexpensive linens, lamps and other home furnishings, which she described as "global kitsch."

The Klamath Falls Craft World will be the next store to close, probably by early summer, said Phillips, the general manager.

Craft World is trying to find tenants to sublease its Springfield and North Bend stores. Craft World's leases for those outlets last until in 2005, Phillips said.

The Schoenings own the store buildings in Albany and Eugene.

Those stores probably will stay open the longest, perhaps into 2005, though it's hard to say exactly how long, Phillips said.

The Schoenings declined to be interviewed for the article. However, Phillips said the Schoenings were longtime wholesale suppliers of hobby and craft items to other stores. The Schoenings formed Craft World in 1982, he said.

Ten years later, a Register-Guard article reported that the company had four stores, which later grew to six.

The business remained a wholesaler of craft products until 1998.

Phillips said former employees will receive severance pay. "Some employees have been with us from almost the beginning," he said. "We are very disappointed that we are not going to be able to continue operating."

CAPTION(S):

Please turn to CRAFTS, Page B6 Crafts: Eugene, Albany will be open longest Continued from Page B1 Wayne Eastburn / The Register-Guard During the past few years Craft World has added linens, lamps and other home furnishings in attempt to move a step ahead of competitors.
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:Owners have been searching for a buyer for three years; Business
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Mar 4, 2003
Words:612
Previous Article:Proposal seeks upscale subdivision at Crescent site.
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