Gene and Donna Allensworth took a dime store heritage, began business as a variety store and succeeded in crafts more than 37 years, but now it’s coming to an end in Carson City.
The couple and their daughter, Michele, operate Craft Market just off Curry Street in a building on property that carries the address 2750 S. Carson St. Gene and Donna, the owners, and Michele, general manager, are in the midst of winding down their operation via a going-out-of-business sale that could last until the holiday season.
“I’m thinking that with all the merchandise, we should be finished by Christmas, but it just depends on the customers,” said Allensworth, 75, who with Donna originally opened a Ben Franklin variety store on Carson City’s east side. It opened on July 14, 1977, when Michele was little more than a toddler, at 2270 U.S. Highway 50 East in what then was the Warehouse Market shopping center, said Allensworth. Back then, the store was 5,000 square feet and the focus was different. Initially the store stocked such items as shoes, apparel, toys, toasters and the like.
“We didn’t really have any crafts, except some plastic flowers,” Donna recalled. The pair said as time passed, big box stores provided competition for apparel and the other items and customers let them know they liked crafts via their purchases. So the store converted to crafts by the 1980s.
The couple began with some eight employees in 1977, but by the middle of the next decade things were going so well they opened another crafts store in Sparks, and a third in Reno a couple of years later. At the height of the three-store operation, as economic times improved in the late part of that decade and the 1990s, there were 50 employees, according to the Allensworths.
Allensworth said at one point Ben Franklin officials urged him and other operators in the franchise system to open even more stores, but he gave that notion a pass. His thought at the time, passed on as he looked back over nearly four decades in business, was clear both then and now.
“I’m not interested in having the biggest tombstone in the graveyard,” he said.
In 1996, the Carson City store was moved from the east side location to its current spot just along South Curry Street on property the owners purchased, which included two buildings. The name was switched in 2000 from Ben Franklin Crafts to Craft Market.
The store there currently has 10 employees and about 16,000 square feet of retail floor space, plus storage, in a building that originally was a bowling alley in the 1960s. It housed Southwest Gas engineering and offices before the Allensworths made their purchase, Allensworth said. He said he likely will sell the four-acre property and buildings after the current sale is completed.
The family exited the other two Northern Nevada stores in the past decade. They had a partner for the Sparks store and sold their share to him in 2005. The Reno store was closed on Nov. 15, 2012.
So what comes after this last store’s closing sale ends? The Allensworths have another home in the Palm Springs area of California and plant to split time between there and Carson City while enjoying more time for children and grandchildren. But both Gene and Donna said they haven’t given retirement much thought beyond that.
The Allensworths said they’ve had great customers and have enjoyed their work over more than three decades in the craft business. Allensworth said he particularly liked things as the business focus shifted.
“It’s been a lot of fun,” he said, noting that wasn’t the case in the early variety store days, “I don’t think that it was as much fun.”
“We’ve had great customers,” Donna said. “They came from all over.” Her husband’s appreciation included the practical aspect. “They pay the light bill,” he said. “They pay the bills.”