Well, that’s it.
After 40 years, the White Elephant in Spokane Valley opened its doors for the final time Saturday.
And while the shelves were virtually empty, the aisles were still busy with people coming to support the longtime local business for the last time, even though White Elephant’s other location, on North Division Street, will remain open at least until August.
The two-outlet operation began its final sale last month. People who have been coming to the store for years and new customers came to thank the White Elephant in the Valley for offering a friendly, familiar place to buy everything from toys to tents.
“It’s been overwhelming. In the first days of the sale, there were tons of people here,” said Richard Conley, one of the owners of White Elephant. “Spokane and the whole Inland Northwest has been really good to us for all these years. We had customers from Alberta in Canada and people from British Columbia and Montana and Northern Idaho and the Tri-Cities who have been coming here for years came up just to say goodbye. It’s been very loving and emotional.”
During the first few days of the sale, Conley said he and other employees would walk down the line of people waiting to go in and would be astounded by their stories and memories of the store, which sometimes spanned generations.
“The overall is, people are sad to see it go but they’re understanding and that’s the biggest thing,” said Willie Mustered, the manager and buyer at the Spokane Valley location.
“Many of the people have been coming here for 30 to 40 years, and they bring their kids and their grandkids here. They’re sad to see it go.”
After working at the store for 12 years, Mustered said one of his favorite parts was the friendships he made with frequent customers .
Cathy Phillips, who praised the “very friendly” staff, is one of those customers. She said she has been coming to the store her whole life and has loved bringing her children and grandchildren to the store, too.
“It’s been hard – it’s been really emotional for the family,” said Betsy Conley-Mertens, who is Conley’s daughter and has worked at the store throughout her childhood. “We knew it would be for the family, but seeing how hard this has been on the community just speaks volumes to how many people this store has touched, and how many cool memories people have made around this store.”
Conley-Mertens recalled one of those customers leaving the store for the last time.
“I watched an older gentleman walk out the door the other day and walk to the riding elephant and put his hand on its head and patted it and stood there for a minute, and walked away like he was saying goodbye,” Conley said.
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