By: Jessica O’Connor
A business that has been a fixture in the lives of many Walterboro families is saying farewell after many years of service to the community. Mrs. Teresa Busbee announced with great sadness last month that the Sears Hometown Store, located at 377 Bells Highway, would be closing its doors for good in October.
From the early days as a Sears catalog store to its time as a franchise, the iconic business has been a household name in Walterboro. Some readers may fondly remember circling toys and trinkets in the yearly Christmas catalog. Others may look back and reminisce over the fact that their first major appliance purchases were made in one of the storefronts. No matter what the memories may look like, one thing is certain-the business was known for turning first time buyers into loyal customers.
Teresa and her staff’s commitment to building sincere relationships with and providing excellent service for Sears’ customers no doubt played a large part in building that loyalty. She noted that infusing her faith into the business created a welcoming atmosphere for all who entered the doors.
“I used it as a ministry for God,” Teresa said. “I always had a Bible in there. I had customers that would come in and read the Bible with me, and they would tell me they couldn’t go just anywhere and do that. We just always put God first.”
Going the extra mile to show their customers that they were appreciated led to many becoming like family to Teresa and the other employees.
“Every customer that came through there became a friend, but then that friend became a family member,” she stated with a smile in her voice. “I had very few disgruntled customers. I can say this-90% of the customers that came in disgruntled left feeling much better. Many even came back later to apologize for their behavior.”
Walterboro’s Sears Hometown Store didn’t just make a mark on its customers. The individuals that worked for Teresa through the years also left with more knowledge, skills, and confidence to move on to higher positions than they had when they were hired.
“I always told everybody to use this as a stepping stone to make your life better,” she said. “Get the experience, and if something comes about then go for it if that’s what you want to do.”
Although Teresa firmly believes that God doesn’t close one door without opening another that is even better, she’s saddened to know that there will be another empty storefront in town. She also recognizes that many of her former customers will miss the opportunity to speak with someone face to face in regards to payments (which can be paid online or mailed going forward), purchases, and other issues. However, Teresa was quick to mention that she doesn’t want her customers to feel that the business closing is not due to lack of support.
“I want people to know that this is not happening because the community did not support us,” she said emphatically. “It was nothing to do with the community or ownership. It was strictly a corporate decision made by Sears. We got caught up in this wave of closures, and there’s another coming. There are no more Sears stores in South Carolina.”
For many, myself and Teresa included, seeing Sears stores drift away feels like the end of an era-a door shutting softly on a time when personal service, friends, and family, was everything.
Teresa and the staff of Sears Hometown Store wish to extend many thanks to the people of Walterboro and beyond for their many years of continued support. The store’s final day will be Friday or Saturday for anyone that wishes to stop by one last time.