October 19, 2010
Mary Kuehn hasn’t exactly rushed into retirement.
She’s talked about it for years, she acknowledged. About 15 months ago, she reduced the hours at her home furnishings store, The Silent Woman, to three days a week — basically to test the waters.
“That was my first step into retirement,” she said. “The whole process of it scared me quite a bit. I work all the time, so I thought, ‘How is this going to work?’”
It took months, she said, before she could stay home and not feel guilty about being absent from the store. Now, though, she’s ready to truly retire — and close the doors of her 31-year-old business.
A liquidation sale begins Thursday. There’s no set closing date, But, Kuehn said, “I hope to be home for Thanksgiving.”
Kuehn, 60, opened The Silent Woman at Barnes Road and Oro Blanco Drive in 1979. Five years later, she moved the store to a more visible location: The Citadel mall.
Business was good there, she said, but the hours were long. And, ultimately, something was missing.
“The risk was gone,” Kuehn said. “Part of the thrill of it was building business, and now it was just like a certain amount I would do every year.”
She was ready to embrace the “village concept” of shopping — “the idea of people being able to drive up to a place and not have to browse the whole mall.” At The Citadel, she said, “people really didn’t know any more that I was the owner of the store. They though it was a chain store, and that to me was a lot less satisfying.”
So in 1995, The Silent Woman moved to what would be its last home, the site of what was once the Egghouse grocery store, built in 1897 on Nevada Avenue north of Colorado College. Kuehn bought the building and spent about $100,000 on a parking area, putting in wood floors and other changes.
Home furnishings and decorative accessories have remained the focus at The Silent Woman, but over the years, Kuen has gone beyond an initial emphasis on American country to embrace an eclectic mix of styles, including Southwest and contemporary.
“I’m just fascinated with beautiful things,” she said.
And over those three decades and three locations, customers have always followed her, Kuehn said.
“I’ve always been pleasantly surprised,” she said.
Business has been fairly stable over the years, she said; probably her best year, she said, came after the 9-11 terror attacks.
“I think it was home and hearth,” she said. “It was that whole thing of everybody hunkering down.”
Shopping habits, she believes, have been affected by the recent recession.
“Everybody is simplifying. Everybody is looking for a significant piece, one item, rather than tons of things.”
Still, she doesn’t think it will be a problem to empty the store with the liquidation sale. She points to the success of past tent and anniversary sales.
After Christmas each year, people mistakenly assume she puts remaining holiday merchandise in storage and hauls it out the next year, she said.
“No, we sell it down. It is gone.”
Contact the writer at 636-0272.
THE SILENT WOMAN
Location:1216 N. Nevada Ave.
Liquidation sale: Begins Thursday, with savings of up to 75 percent off.
Hours: Normally open Thursdays through Saturdays. But starting next week, with the liquidation sale under way, hours will expand to 10 am.-5 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays.