For more than a century, customers in search of chairs and tables have made their way to a furniture store in downtown Gulfport, but not anymore. About a month ago, the owners of J.C. Clower Furniture turned over the "closed" sign for good. Bob and Barbara Clower, both in their seventies, have decided to retire.
Some business owners say that without the Clowers, downtown Gulfport won't be the same. Walk past the store now and you'll find the door locked, the showroom empty, and the 108 year old store closed.
Shirley Walker is still ringing up customers. Her health food shop has been in downtown Gulfport for 28 years. For much of that time her business was right next to Bob and Barbara Clower's store.
"My first bedroom set I bought from those folks and I still have it," said Walker. "It's like brand new and that's been over 40 years ago."
Businesses like Clower Furniture and Karl's Jewelry have a history in downtown Gulfport that spans several generations. Long time shop owners say the area was once a shopping Mecca.
Store owner Karl Fasold said "'Til 9 o'clock at night, there were so many people on the sidewalk that you had to watch where you walked cause there where so many people. This was the only shopping area around, so they all come down to Gulfport to shop."
Many of the old buildings survived, but Fasold and Walker say, for one reason or another, most of the old time businesses have not. Now they've said good bye to Clower Furniture.
"I almost cried when I watched them close," said Walker." It's the end of an era."
J.C. Clower Furniture was founded in 1894 in Biloxi, then moved to Gulfport shortly afterwards. Bob and Barbara are the third generation of Clowers to run the store. They say while they will miss all their customers, giving up the business and retiring was something they needed to do.