After more than a quarter-century of selling wood furniture, Janice and John Brown are closing their Brown's Wood Stuff stores in Occoquan and Manassas this month and moving back to their hometown of Greenville, Tenn., to care for aging relatives.
Their Warrenton store, which is operated by John Brown's brother-in-law, George Olafsen, will remain open.
"It's going to be a very tough day when I have to lock the door and I leave," said John Brown, 58.
Longtime customers were saddened by the news.
"I'm going to hate to see them go," said Linda Richards, 51, of Dale City, who first purchased furniture at the store more than two decades ago. She saved the money she made running a home-based day-care service for a year and bought an eight-piece bedroom set from the Occoquan store.
Ever since, salespeople at the store have remembered her name, and she has purchased furniture for every room in her house from Brown's Wood Stuff. Her two adult children have also purchased pieces from the stores, and her 4-year-old grandson has a rocking chair from Brown's in his room.
When she learned the store would close, Richards ordered an entertainment center for her new home in Stafford County, where she will move this summer.
The Browns recently sent a letter informing their frequent customers that they are retiring and that their inventory would be on sale. They expect to close the stores by the end of June.
"I shed a few tears when I was writing it," John Brown said.
The Browns moved to Prince William County in 1970, when John Brown began working for the General Accounting Office. His older brother, Roger, who trained as an engineer, was crafting wood furniture.
"We loved the furniture he was making," John Brown said.
The couple decided to open a store in Occoquan in 1979 because "we just loved the town."
Janice Brown, 58, ran the store, and her husband helped out on weekends until 1983, when he quit his job.
The couple began to sell not only Roger Brown's creations, but also name-brand furniture and pieces crafted by the Amish and Mennonites.
By the late 1990s, the family operated stores in Warrenton, Woodbridge and Manassas. In 2002, they closed the store in a Woodbridge shopping center.
The family-owned business now employs one of the Browns' three daughters and a son-in-law, Keith Murrow. Two of their daughters and their families will also move to Tennessee, where they are considering starting another furniture store.
"They may be the impetus for us getting back in the furniture business," John Brown said.