Popular Santa Rosa home and gift shop Favorite Things will permanently close after 28 years of business.
Owners Corinne and Patrick Murray said they are ready to retire and, considering the obstacles small business owners currently face, it’s time to hang up their hat.
“Retail is getting tougher and trying to figure out what people want because things are changing like their buying habits,” Murray said. “My customer base is shrinking and along with the internet and attracting customers, it’s just becoming tougher.”
The Murrays opened Favorite Things just before Christmas in 1995. Over the years, Corinne Murray has built up her inventory and customer base after she moved the shop a door down from its original location. It now sits inside a quaint standalone building on the corner of Fourth Street and Talbot Avenue outside downtown.
Corinne Murray had a background in accounting, but she was uncertain how to start a small business in the beginning. She found a sales rep, hunted for a storefront in Santa Rosa and set up shop in a little house, which Corinne Murray said has housed women-owned businesses since 1948.
Her shop has sold home decor, clothing, holiday decorations and — most recently — Annie Sloan brand chalk paint. She even started hosting chalk paint tutorials and workshops to attract new customers.
Over almost three decades, the Murrays also got to know their customers and the residents living in the surrounding neighborhood.
“We’ve seen the little kids grow up, go to college and have kids of their own,” Corinne Murray said. “We felt like part of the neighborhood.”
But ongoing inflation and economic uncertainty have played a big role in how consumers manage their money, and Corinne Murray said sales in 2022 were more challenging than before.
If she were 20 years younger, she said, she’d push through the current economic state and wait for things to pick up.
“I told my husband if we have another recession, I don’t know if I’m going to stay around,” she said. “This is really lonely.”
The holidays, when gifting and shopping is at a high, are typically the busiest times for Favorite Things. But Corinne Murray said many of her customers — on average between ages 40 and 70 — haven’t been buying as much. Her oldest customers have cut back on purchases or moved to just buy online.
She said she has a hard time selling to a younger customer base because of minimalist design preferences. Even going to trade shows to buy products for the store has been difficult, with many of the trade shows offering slim pickings.
Corinne Murray said she traditionally makes over half of her sales in the last quarter, with the other months’ sales continuing to get smaller.
“People were saying, ‘We don’t really need all these gifts,’” Corinne Murray said. “There’s just not the designers or exciting stuff anymore.”
Favorite Things isn’t the only novelty shop to close or change up its business model. Classic Duck in Santa Rosa announced at the end of January that it would close so owner Lynette Boisvert could retire.
California Sister, which sold products like skincare and home decor alongside its floral services, is closing its Sebastopol brick-and-mortar spot and moving exclusively online.
Corinne Murray said she’s stopped buying new inventory and plans to discount existing items, furniture and store fixtures by 40% to 70% for her store closing sale.
The Murrays bought the building that houses Favorite Things in 2002 and have lived in an apartment on its second floor while renting out the building’s other retail spaces. They aren’t sure what they’ll do with the building once the business closes — but she’ll think about that step down the line, she said.
Despite closing the business, Corinne Murray is looking forward to having more time to travel and engage in her hobbies, like painting, gardening and cooking.
Because the Murrays own the building, they don’t have to be out of the store by any set time.
“It’s not like the good old days,” Corinne said. “I’ll miss the customers because we’ve built up so many friendships.”
You can reach Staff Writer Sara Edwards at 707-521-5487 or sara.edwards@pressdemocrat. com. On Twitter @sedwards380.