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Town & Country owner remembers 60 years in business

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Downtown clothing store prepares to close

By Amber Coulter

After about 60 years in business, Town & Country in Elizabethtown is closing.

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Owner Jane Clauson remembers when her sister, Estelle Clark, bought the space on Public Square in the early 1950s, when the owner of a dress shop there decided to sell it.

Clark was operating a children’s clothing store for a few years and took the opportunity to run an adult clothing store out of what was, at the time, a quarter of the space the store now has with a small area in the back for an office.

Clauson, of Bonnieville, worked for her sister and eventually became a partner in the business.

“We got a lot of merchandise crammed in that little space,” she said.

The store grew in the late 1950s with the sisters buying added space for storage and in 1982, when they bought an adjacent store.

Despite physical changes to the store, the mission has remained consistent for the estimated 60 years it has been open. The sisters wanted to provide well-made, classic pieces that wouldn’t go out of style.

To find those styles, Clauson and her sister went to Chicago a few times a year and occasionally New York City to buy merchandise.

Clauson took her first solo trip to buy merchandise after her sister was in a car crash that put her in the hospital for four months.

“I was reluctant, but I did become more confident about decision making,” she said. “When you have to do something, then you do it.”

Clauson became more involved in buying and developed an eye for unusual fashions.

About 30 years ago, the store became the first in town to offer Estée Lauder. Makeup samples still are offered at the front counter, she said.

“We needed to have something that they couldn’t find anywhere else,” she said.

A store in Towne Mall now offers Estée Lauder, and many residents go there or to area department stores to buy clothes.

Towne & Country weathered tough times over six decades, retaining long-time loyal customers and drawing new shoppers. Some people still wander in, saying they didn’t know the store existed.

In the end, it was Clauson’s health that led her this summer to decide to close the store.

“I haven’t felt well this past year, and I think that told me it was time,” she said. “It will be sad when I turn the key the last time. You can’t stay somewhere for 60 years and not be sad when you leave.”

Clauson’s sister died in 2009. Clark was an inspiring person, she said.

Clauson said her store has been blessed with good customers and long-time employees who are more like family members. The two current employees, Zelda Stringer and Emogene Hagan, have been there for about 10 and 40 years, respectively.

No date has been set for closure. Clauson thinks it might come at the end of the month.

Amber Coulter can be reached at 270-505-1746 or acoulter@thenewsenterprise.com.