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Changing Times

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ENID, Okla. (AP) _ In 1946, K.P. Simpson started selling surplus merchandise from the back of a jeep.

From those sales of World War II merchandise, Simpson built a retail business that has been a mainstay in Enid.

Now, after 60 years in business, Simpson's Mercantile will close its doors.

Owners Rick and Larry Simpson, K.P.'s sons and the second generation of the family to operate the business, say a combination of things have resulted in the decision to close the store. A decline in local business has made it difficult to continue keeping the store open. Rick Simpson said most of their business is out of town and out of state.

``This was hard for us to do, but it's time for a new adventure,'' Rick said.

Over the years, the store has become something of a Western-style museum, and the Simpsons plan to continue to develop the museum.

``We still want it to be a place where you can bring family and friends who are in town for a visit,'' Larry Simpson said. ``We'll still have that, we're just getting out of the retail business.''

He said they have discussed possibly establishing a mail-order business.

They continue to rent an Old West saloon they built in the store last year for meetings and weddings, and it is available to the public.

They also have outside interests they will pursue, including continuing to write and produce Western movies.

The Simpsons have produced movies that have become popular with younger children, and the Stormy Lane Fan Club is now spread across four states. Stormy Lane is a character played by Rick Simpson in their movies.

Eventually, there will be new things to see in the museum area, including an Old West town being built in the store's warehouse.

The decision to close the store did not come easily. Some customers doing business at the store started when they were children. Rick and Larry have been in the business for 40 years. One employee has been with them that long, and the shortest-term employee has been at the store five years.

They are proud of their record of supporting local youth activities.

``Everyone who came in the store, whether a rodeo queen candidate or someone selling ads for the yearbook, they never left empty-handed,'' Rick Simpson said.

There currently are 10 employees, but the store has had as many as 30.

``We have a tremendous crew. They all know what service means,'' Larry Simpson said. ``Dad always said, 'Hire the best people you can and let them do their job.' They have been loyal and honest.''

Just like K.P., who continued to come into the store every day until his death so he could talk to customers, the Simpsons will miss the interaction with their customers.

``We like visiting with them. We knew it would come to this some day, but we didn't like to think about it,'' Larry Simpson said.

Simpson's is one of the oldest independently owned retail stores in northwest Oklahoma, he said.
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