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Glen Burnie store weathers hail and retail storms

E.B. Furgurson III
Contact Reporterpfurgurson@capgaznews.com

It is not enough that Carol’s Western Wear, a Glen Burnie institution for over 50 years, is dealing with the online threat to mom-and-pop brick-and-mortar stores, but Saturday’s storm blew most of its roof off.

“My wonderful customers and staff ran over to move to move things away with water pouring in. I could have lost a lot, but only lost about $800 in products,” said general manager Bob Chance.

The real damage when the roof peeled off was upstairs in the storage and office area. “There was so much water, it’s uninhabitable. I have no office. It could be a total loss.”

A quick patch job was done on the Ritchie Highway store’s flat roof.

On Thursday crews were still working on the second floor, removing the drywall, ceiling and plaster, ruined carpet and more to restore the area. There is still rain-damaged carpet downstairs in the store area, Chance said.

About 30 percent of the roof was gone and it quickly started pouring into part of the store downstairs. “It could have been worse. If the water had come down where I have boots displayed I could have lost $50,000 in inventory, easy. As it was I lost some shirts and a few hats.”

But with the steady competition from online sales he is figuratively close to losing his shirt. The western wear business has depended on stimuli in the culture, like the 1980 movie “Urban Cowboy” or the country line-dancing craze several years later, to boost sales since the area lost most of the agricultural base in the last decades.

The store started as a business in his father, Robert Chance’s basement in 1962. They moved into the building, where his grandfather had a business, four years later. Robert Chance still opens the store everyday.

“In the 60’s and 70’s we used to sell saddles, bridles and horseshoes when there was agriculture in the area,” Chance said.

“Now it’s pure fashion. But when the next Urban Cowboy happens or something like line-dancing happens my store won’t do much better,” he said.

The company closed its Laurel store two years ago after 25 years.

Because most people buy the cheapest price online.

He even notes what he calls “showrooming” when potential customers will come into a store try things on or figure out which hat they like and go home to buy it online at the cheapest price.

“It’s like I am a showroom for Amazon. I don’t mind competing with other brick and mortar stores online, but with Stetson.com? Perhaps I should get a cut of that sale,” he said.

Insurance should cover most of the repairs, he said. But being closed or partially closed for four days hurt.

“When you are in retail you are on a razor’s edge and a strong breeze can knock you off. This was a hell of a breeze.

That’s why I say buy local — or bye-bye-local.”

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