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Kegels pulling plug on store to lighten up their lives After July 4 closing, couple will retire to dude ranch


WESTMINSTER -- This Fourth of July will be like no other for Robert E. and Jacqueline Kegel. The holiday will be closing day for their appliance store and opening day for their retirement.

And what a retirement they have planned.

They're building a dude ranch on their Taneytown cattle farm and have a motor home ready for traveling to their condominium in Florida or anywhere else they can map a route. They also would like to visit Europe again.

"The business has been good to us," Robert Kegel said. "It has offered us opportunities to buy property that allows us to make this move. We're happy and content."

Kegel's appliance store at 359 Manchester Road is busy this week. Closing a store that's been open almost 33 years is hectic. The Kegels and their daughter Darlene, who has worked full time with them for eight years, are helping customers find bargains and settling up with salesmen.

Kegel's has been at its current location for 10 years.

"We did our job, and now it's time to move on," said Robert Kegel, 54. "What I'm looking for is a little slower life."

Kegel got into the appliance business after working with his father, Edward Kegel, who started a TV sales and service business here in the mid-1940s. Edward Kegel died last year.

The city was different when Kegel opened his first store on East Main Street in 1960, he said.

"You walked down the street and you were part of the community," he said. "You don't have the closeness [now] you used to have."

That makes it easier to close, he added.

The city has attracted new residents from outside the county who have different buying habits, Kegel said. Many would rather shop at malls and shopping centers where they can go to a variety of stores, he said.

"Our type of business has changed. The merchandising of appliances has changed," he said.

Mass merchandisers such as Wal-Mart, K mart and others are selling televisions, VCRs and appliances with success.

"People just don't come to stores like ours as much as they did," he said.

The king of mass merchandising -- Wal-Mart Stores Inc. -- is staring Kegel in the face. From the front of his store, he can see a new Wal-Mart store being built with great speed on a hill on Englar Road. It is scheduled to open in the fall.

If he were younger, the new competitor would have posed a challenge to the veteran retailer. Wal-Mart will attract more customers to the area, some of whom would spill over to his store if he sold different items, Kegel said.

But the Kegels, married 31 years, want to retire while they're young and healthy enough to enjoy themselves, he said.

Three months ago, the couple closed their Hanover, Pa., appliance store. Their appliance store in Eldersburg closed three years ago. Kegel's Video Sound Center, a videotape rental business at 37 S. Cranberry Road, remains open.

Other companies have taken over the appliance and video equipment services that Kegel's used to offer, he said.

The Kegels own all of the buildings where their businesses have been located and are making money by renting them, he said.

They hope to open the dude ranch -- which will include an inn and areas for camping, recreational activities and small rodeos -- on their 243-acre farm on Trevanion Road in a couple of years, Kegel said.

They also own another farm of almost 200 acres in the area. There they raise 150 head of Angus and Hereford cattle.

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