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Bruce Variety in Bethesda to relocate and reopen

Employee Hopeton Dobbs manages shrinking inventory at the Bruce Variety store in Bethesda on Jan. 2. (Linda Davidson/THE WASHINGTON POST)

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified Linda Ridenour as Linda Dimock.

Bruce Variety, a Bethesda fixture that after 60 years in business came close to shutting down for good, is relocating.

The store will reopen in March at the former Creative Parties space, at 8011 Woodmont Ave. in Bethesda, Linda Ridenour, the wife of owner Richard Dimock, said Thursday in an interview.

The store closed Jan. 20 after Dimock said he could no longer afford the $22,000 monthly rent in the Bradley Shopping Center, at Bradley Boulevard and Arlington Road. The store had been there since 1953.

As word spread that the variety store was closing, some customers stopped by to suggest new locations, and more than 2,500 people signed an online petition in support of keeping it open.

“It was just heartwarming to see how people rallied,” Ridenour said. “It would have been much easier for us to just bag it, but when we saw how people were so upset that we were not going to be in business anymore, it became a mission of ours” to stay open.

“We were like: “Oh, my God, people are not ready for us to go. People really want us,’ ” she added.

In the online petition asking the landlords of the Bradley Shopping Center to renegotiate with Bruce Variety, longtime and recent customers left comments with stories about special moments they had at the store over the years. One person called the shop a landmark, and others said they looked forward to continuing a tradition and bringing their grandchildren to the store.

Bruce Variety, which Dimock bought in 1985, sells everything from underwear and sombreros to zippers and colorful ribbons. Customers said they were able to find anything they needed.

“You go in, and you wouldn’t say, ‘Do you have?’ You say, ‘Where do you have?’ ” said Maryalys Hopkins, 86, a regular customer since she moved to Bethesda in 1958.

Over the years, she had shopped at Bruce Variety for kitchen supplies, buttons and thread for her sewing, and school supplies for her children. She continued to visit the store at least once a week, she said, adding that she is relieved to know the business will remain open.

“The whole community is waiting for the revival of Bruce Variety,” she said. “We are just so happy that they didn’t have to go out of business and that they are really going to enlarge their business. It is a great contribution to the community.”

Hit hard by the recession, Bruce Variety is looking to a new beginning just a few blocks from the Bradley Shopping Center. And the owners say they are excited to open in time for St. Patrick’s Day, usually a big deal at the store.

When it reopens, Bruce Variety will expand some departments — the handyman corner will have more hardware, and the sewing and fabrics area will be larger. The store will also have knitting and sewing classes, Ridenour said.

Luz Lazo writes about transportation and development. She has recently written about the challenges of bus commuting, Metro’s dark stations, and the impact of sequestration on air travel.

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