Bill Bodecker had been thinking about retiring for the past year or more. He finally decided now is the time.
After 40 years in business, Bodecker and his wife, Diana, will close their two Rustic Hutch stores in Fort Wayne and retire, he said Tuesday.
"I've worked six days a week for 40 years," said Bill, who also turns age 66 next month. "It's time for something different — less stress."
The stores will close after business Thursday to tag the approximately $3 million in inventory for a going-out-of-business sale, which will begin Aug. 15. Staff also will take final orders for furniture and some other merchandise.
The stores are located at 10202 Coldwater Road in the Pine Valley Mall and at 4110 W. Jefferson Blvd. in Jefferson Pointe mall.
Rustic Hutch stores carry a range of furniture, home decor items, specialty gifts and hand-knotted Oriental rugs, as well as offering interior design services. The 12,000-square-foot Pine Valley store includes company offices and its warehouse, Bodecker said. The Jefferson Pointe store fills about 7,000 square feet.
The company employs a total of 35 to 40 people on a full-time or part-time basis, said Scott Bodecker, their son and the business' operations manager. Employees were notified Sunday night of the plans to close.
Most of the staff has been with Rustic Hutch for an average of 20 years, Scott Bodecker said.
"There is a definite family atmosphere here," said the younger Bodecker, who has other business interests and didn't think taking over at Rustic Hutch would be the best fit for himself or his family.
Business has been a little soft since the 2008 recession, but that isn't a major factor in the decision to close and retire, Bill Bodecker said.
What he will miss most about the stores, he said, are the staff and the customers.
"Their families and our families have grown up together," he said of store employees. "That is one of the tough parts of doing this — those relationships will change."
He described customers as being like little birds wanting to feather their nests. He and his staff enjoy helping them and trying to make their shopping visit a fun experience.
"He goes on deliveries when he can," Scott said of his father. "He loves being able to see customers and the excitement on their face when they get the piece of furniture they have been waiting on."
Bill and Diana Bodecker opened Rustic Hutch in 1974 after buying a small furniture store of the same name in the Georgetown Square shopping center.
Recently married, the couple had arrived early for a movie at the former Georgetown theater, so they wandered over to look at the store before going into the theater. They loved the owner's country-style furniture.
They then moved to Kansas, where he had a job teaching at his former high school. They returned to Fort Wayne at Christmas to visit Diana's family, and stopped by the store again.
They decided to set up a similar store in Wichita, Kan., near where they were living. When they called the owner here to ask more advice, he offered to sell the store to them. Diana's aunt also happened to mention there was an opening for a high school English teacher and football coach in Convoy, Ohio, which was just the kind of job Bill wanted.
"I never thought in a hundred years it would come together, but it did," he said.
He spent a year teaching and coaching while Diana managed the store, which still was in Georgetown Square. Then she gave birth to Scott, and Bill took over running the store while she cared for their son. Bill has been there ever since.
The Bodeckers don't have any special plans yet for retirement.
He would like to go back to Kansas at the holidays — his mom is age 95, and he hasn't been back for a Thanksgiving or Christmas since 1974.
Beyond that, "After I decompress," he said, "I'll do something I find that is fun."