Stebbins Anderson, a home goods retailer in Towson that opened shortly after the end of the Civil War selling coal, lumber and hardware, will close at the end of the year.
The 152-year-old retailer will shut its doors Dec. 31, the owners of the longtime anchor of The Shops at Kenilworth said in a Facebook post Tuesday.
“The retail environment has become increasingly more difficult for small businesses, which factored into the decision, but we are also looking forward to starting the next chapter of our lives,” the post said. “It has been a pleasure serving our community and loyal customers, which makes this decision all the more difficult.”
Owners Ken and Bonnie Knight bought the store in 2015.
“We’re in an economy of decreasing sales, due to the Internet,” Ken Knight said Tuesday. “The numbers are the numbers.”
Sales, now at about $2.5 million annually, have been on the decline about five years, Knight said.
“Younger folks, millennials, they don’t fix things anymore,” he said. “They buy cheap and throw it away. My stuff lasts 15 to 20 years.”
The store, an original tenant in Kenilworth when it opened in 1977, endeavored to compete by focusing on service and unique merchandise, Knight said in a 2017 interview.
Mall owner Greenberg Gibbons completed a $20 million renovation of the mall after buying it in 2015, adding a new main entrance, updating the interior and exterior and bringing in a Trader Joe’s grocery store as an anchor.
As part of the makeover, Stebbins also renovated its store, consolidated from two floors to one and narrowed its focus to housewares, patio furniture, paint, packaged hardware and sofas and recliners. The store at that time discontinued loose hardware items.
But with sales continuing to decrease, it became harder and hard to cover rent and make payroll. The retailer now has 18 full-time workers and 20 part-time employees.
The business got its start in 1867 as the Cochrane Lumber Co., selling coal, lumber and hardware in the heart of Towson at 305 York Road, between Susquehanna and Chesapeake avenues. It remained there until moving to the mall in the late 1970s.
The Evening Sun
A Mr. Stebbins and a Mr. Anderson bought the lumber company in 1911, when it became the Stebbins Anderson Coal and Lumber Co. Inc. The name was shortened to Stebbins Anderson Co. in 1926 by then-owners J.W. Edelen and J. Harry West. The business was sold in 1979 to Richard Powers, who later sold it to the Knights.
The couple had been longtime Stebbins Anderson employees. Ken Knight had worked as the store’s comptroller.
He told the Towson Times in 2017, the store’s 150th anniversary, that the couple remained optimistic about the store’s future because of its deep roots in Towson.
“When I was in high school, I remember my dad saying that he was going to go over to Stebbins,” said Ken Knight, who graduated from Overlea High School in 1967 and took accounting courses at the University of Baltimore, in the 2017 article.
“He said that you might pay a little more to shop there, but that it was worth it," Knight said. “It’s always been a family-owned business and it still is. Not many businesses are like that today.”
Knight said he will turn 70 in December and his 34-year-old son, who has worked in the business since he was 14, is not interesting in running the store. Stebbins is offering 30 percent off on all merchandise until the closing.
“We’re packed with Christmas items,” he said. “We bought specifically to end on a good note.”