The loyal customers of Bob's Variety Store know nothing can replace it, now that the Main Street fixture has closed its doors after 40 years. But owners Bob and Sue Klingenberg are hoping to fill the space with at least one business that will thrive.
Tomorrow, the Klingenbergs are scheduled to go before Hampstead Planning and Zoning Commission to get feedback about what changes they could make to help market the 4,200-square-foot space at 1206 N. Main St.
"We just want to see what the options are, to see whether we could leave it as one store or divide it, so we know before we market it," said Sue Klingenberg.
She said she and her husband have not actively sought tenants or buyers.
"We have a sign up, and that's about it," she said.
When they decided to retire, the couple tried to sell the store as a variety store, she said. But with such a large and expensive stock, and a Wal-Mart set to open north of town, they could find no takers, she said.
A few prospective renters have contacted them, but ruled out the building for one reason or another, usually because it is too big.
One person wanted to open a clothing store. One was interested in selling books. Another was considering an ice cream parlor. Other proposals included motorcycle sales and service and computer sales.
Those ideas are no longer on the table, Sue Klingenberg said. But if the store can be divided into smaller units, that might provide flexibility to rent it, she said.
Dennis Wertz, chairman of the Planning and Zoning Commission, said the Klingenbergs might not require any special consideration from town government, especially if they were to keep the building as a retail establishment.
Other uses, however, such as a restaurant, would require a permit to waive the requirement that owners provide parking spaces. Bob's has relied on on-street and public parking. But zoning laws enacted since the store opened 40 years ago require new business uses to go through a permit process for parking, or request a waiver.
"I've always been able to park on the street when I went to Bob's," Wertz said. "There's a lot of on-street parking in Hampstead, and the turnover is high."
He said that while the Klingenbergs might not need permission for some of their ideas for change, the commission is willing to provide information they need.
"It's in the heart of the downtown area," Wertz said. "We don't want to see it vacant for a long time. We want to see it used."
The Planning and Zoning Commission will meet at 7 p.m. tomorrow at Hampstead Town Hall, 1034 S. Carroll St.