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Webster Groves Ben Franklin Closes One Year After South County Location

Owner Gary Hampel said a substantial increase in rent and the poor economy were among the major reasons behind the closure of the Webster Groves craft store.

News of the Old Orchard Ben Franklin closing has stirred a whirlwind of speculation on the reason behind the decision in Webster Groves, but crafters in South County are all too familiar with the feeling. 

The strip center in which the crafts store is located is owned by Webster University. 

Owner Gary Hampel said there were several reasons behind his decision to close the store, which he opened 30 years ago. 

"The increase in rent was substantial, and it was non-negotiable," Hampel said. "It's one of the major reasons we're closing, but it's not the only one."

He said the poor economy was also a major factor in shuttering the store's doors.

"My store is full of wants, not needs," Hampel told Patch. "With the economy, people are cautious on how they are spending their money."

Hampel also owned the , which closed last year. The closing of the Old Orchard location leaves only one brick-and-mortar Ben Franklin in the St. Louis area - . 

Hampel said he was surprised with the outpouring of community support when he closed the South County location.

"Apparently, a lot of people were really connected to that store that I didn't even know about," he said. "We received a lot of letters expressing sympathy in regard to the closure."

Hampel said the Old Orchard store will open tomorrow at 9 a.m. with going-out-of-business sale, and that the store would remain open until sometime in October.

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