The line of customers at Long Beach Craft & Variety spilled out the door onto Park Avenue last Sunday, as hundreds of shoppers took advantage of a big clearance sale of everything from backpacks and sweatshirts to stationery and beach supplies.
But the crowd wasn’t there simply to get good deals. Most had come to show their support for owner Cassandra Bolivar, who said last week that she would close the business, a staple in the center of town for nearly 20 years, this month.
Considered something of an anchor store, Long Beach Craft & Variety, at 50 W. Park Ave., is known for its creative window displays, an annual circus-themed carnival and its customer service.
Though she declined to disclose the monthly rent for the 5,000-square-foot space, Bolivar said that high operational costs — and a decline in business after Hurricane Sandy — were forcing her to close. “For 19 years I’ve opened the front door and tried my best,” she said. “We have a lack of population, and the cost of operations is tremendous — I don’t want to get hurt. But I believed in Long Beach and gave it my all.”
On Sunday, hundreds packed the store to show their support for a local business owner who many said supported the community after Sandy. The store was flooded during the storm but opened the following day, offering supplies to residents reeling from the devastation.
“Cassandra represents all that’s good in Long Beach,” said resident Jessie Farrell. “The merchandise was unique and different, and we always went in trying to find a treasure. My kids always enjoyed going in there and finding unique toys or birthday presents. And we’ll miss her window displays — they were awesome.”
News of the store’s pending closure spread on social media, where residents expressed shock and called it a huge loss for the community. Long Beach Craft & Variety — across the street from City Hall, and previously a McClellans, another variety store — had become an institution, they said.