After 73 years, Lockett’s, a locally owned apparel, specialty shop and Sedalia icon, is closing.
Owner Sally Lockett said, who plans to spend more time with family, travel to see grandchildren in California and maybe even do some fishing, told the Democrat the time was right for the move.
Lockett is the daughter of Elaine and George Lockett who first opened the shop’s doors in 1941 at the Second Street and Ohio Avenue location. Her parents, fresh out of journalism school at the University of Missouri-Columbia, were aspiring to be writers. Plans and Sedalia history were changed when they were offered the opportunity to buy the shop that is now well-known in the area. Soon afterward, George was swept off to military duty in World War II and Elaine began to run the store by herself.
“They both wanted to be a novelist,” Lockett said. “But it was 1941 and everyone needed jobs. My mom actually worked for the Boonville paper for awhile. The opportunity came to buy that space and they jumped on it and they both ran it for many years.”
Her mother’s motto for the shop and its fashions was “With an accent on youth.”
“Because they were college kids, and so it was with an accent on youth,” Lockett said. “In the basement there was sports wear which was fun.”
Early in the business they had a children’s department that eventually moved down to Second Street and Osage Avenue and became Lockett’s Lad and Lassie Shop until the mid-1960s.
“They had a store in Columbia too,” she said. “On the stroll-way because they knew Columbia real well … they’d say Lockett’s on the Stroll-way.”
Around 1970 her father began to work with her uncle at Sedalia Cold Storage and her mother ran the Sedalia store by herself, again.
“I’m the age that my mom was when she said ‘I’m tired, come and help a little bit,’” Lockett said. “And I came back and thought we’d share the load together with two desks and she never came back.”
Sally Lockett began working the business, known at the time as Lockett’s Ladies Shop, by herself in 1979.
The shop stayed at the downtown location until around 1989, and then moved to the building that would eventually house King’s Chef Restaurant on West Broadway Boulevard.
“We had the corner shop,” she said. “And it was 6,000 square feet. It was a glorious shop. Mom and daddy’s grand piano was in there, it was great fun.”
Lockett’s was at this location for three to four years before the landlord asked them to move so an ice cream shop could move into the space.
“So from there we moved to Broadway and State Fair Boulevard,” she said. “We were there another 10 years. And when I decided to close that store and go back to school, I had no idea I would jump back into it five years later, but I did. But during that five years I was selling Doncaster clothing at home.”
Her customers followed her as she sold from her home until she opened at her current location in the State Fair Shopping Center.
“It’s wonderful when they follow you,” she added.
She opened again in 2003 as the Figleaf because she had a partner, Judy Parkhurst. After the partnership ended Lockett renamed the business Lockett’s once again.
She fondly remembers the people who have worked for her parents and herself over the years, producing a long Sedalia retail history.
“Just this morning Sherry Walker came in the store,” she said. “And she was Sherry Shananhan, and Ruby Shananhan her mom was my mom’s right hand person for years, and years — a wonderful lady. And Sherry she was telling how she’d come in after school and her mom would let her open some boxes in the back room and help hangup. She progressed into tagging things, and progressed into actually waiting on people. So she kind of grew up in the store too.”
With fluctuating economies over the years, keeping the store open was often dicey.
“I wouldn’t have survived without Kansas City traffic going to the Lake,” Lockett said. “And they were loyal customers as loyal as our locals. We were blessed to have loyal local customers, but we just didn’t have that wide a population base.”
Besides the Sedalia area and Kansas City, Lockett said her customers drove from Boonville, Marshall, Warrensburg, Cole Camp, Warsaw, Whiteman Air Force Base and Tipton.
“Everything is tighter and tougher,” Lockett said of the current financial state for locally owned businesses. “I have a lot of male friends who own stores and they all say it’s been the toughest year that they’ve seen for a long, long time. A single owned store, one brick and mortar store, one mom and pop store, is tough. When I go to the retailing seminars, for 20 years they’ve said ‘you really need to have about three to make money … so you have buying power to compete.”
She said she knew customers would miss some of the popular specialty items at the current Lockett’s, such as Gramma’s Corner where customers could buy new baby gifts.
“That’s a neat addition that we’ve done probably the last six years,” she said.
Customers also are fond of Brighton Jewelry and sportswear carried by Lockett’s.
“The sportswear — great fun,” Lockett said. “People would come in and they’d say ‘I have somewhere special to go to, and I knew I’d find it here.’ And it wouldn’t be … a bazillion other styles off the rack. You wouldn’t have to worry about seeing it somewhere else in town. We’d keep lists of who went to church where, so if they sat next to each other they wouldn’t end up wearing the same thing.”
As for closing the current business, Lockett has mixed feelings but said she feels it’s best.
“I think it’s a good thing,” Lockett said. “It’s time for me to move on. It’s very hard facing customers who don’t want the store to close, that’s very, very hard. But I think it’s best for my family, but it isn’t best for all the friends we’ve made. But I have to concentrate on the endgame. I think family needs me.”
Lockett said she wants to have the opportunity to chase grandchildren, work on getting her knees and feet healthy, and spend time with her husband, Fred Branson.
“I would love to dig up worms in the backyard and go fishing more often,” she said laughing. “There is one customer, Charla Gordon, I want to go fishing with Charla, she goes fishing everywhere. She knows all the good fishing holes.”
Lockett plans to stay open until most of her clothing sells out, which should be the end of July or mid-August.
“It seemed like a good time to close out and not rush,” she added. “My dream would be that someone would buy it or else start a store when we’re gone. Because people want a specialty store here.”
Lockett will have a special reunion at the shop, at 1400 S. Limit Ave., from 5 to 8 p.m. June 5 for people to come and share their memories and photos, especially those who have worked there over the years. She said the public is invited and that there will be food, drink and fun.