One of the last Rice Village legacies is closing its doors. Variety Fair 5 & 10, which has been a mainstay of Rice Boulevard since 1948, on Monday announced they will soon be closing their doors. Owner Cathy Klinger Irby said that the decision was mostly financial.
"It's not just the rent, it's the construction on Kirby, it's raising the minimum wage, and just a greater cost to get goods in the store," Irby says.
Irby has been running the store since 2000, when the founder, her father Ben Klinger — a Lamar grad and World War II fighter pilot who flew dozens of missions over Italy — passed away. "I grew up in here, and my children grew up in here too. We're probably on the fourth generation of family of some of our customers," Irby says.
Irby plans to close in early June, and is hoping customers come back in for a visit — both for nostalgic and practical purposes. Irby says Variety Fair has a significant amount of debt, but would like to go out with the same dignity with which the store has been run over the years.
"If I was just going by the finances, we would have closed 10 years ago. But the money was never really the point, we wanted to be a part of and a service to the community," Irby says. She's friendly and attentive — the consumate neighborhood shop owner — but it's clear this decision has been an emotional one for her.
But with the Village's change in recent years from a neighborhood destination of local shops to big names and national chains, the little shop chock full of toys, holiday supplies, hardware, housewares, candy and souvenirs was ever-easier to overlook. But overlooked doesn't mean forgotten — a new Facebook page has already begun to attract fans who are sharing what the store meant to them.
As Irby says, it's just another sign of the times. "Rice Village is changing, and not necessarily always in a good way."