Willowbrook Lane will close at the end of March. From left are staff members Jean Flebbe

Willowbrook Lane to close

After almost 23 years as a downtown Summerland retail presence, Willowbrook Lane will close its doors this spring.

After almost 23 years as a downtown Summerland retail presence, Willowbrook Lane will close its doors this spring.

The store’s close-out sale begins today and will continue until March 31.

Allan Fabbi, owner of Willowbrook Lane with his wife Ronda, said the store had its beginnings in the gift department of Summerland Pharmacy.

As the gift department grew, a separate location was needed.

“We ran out of room in the drug store, so we started a new store,” he recalled.

The new location, under the Willowbrook Lane name, was started in the spring of 1991.

The gift store marketed itself to the Okanagan  not just Summerland, and as a result, shoppers came from around the valley.

Over the years, the styles and items at the store changed as a result of changing tastes and trends.

Originally, it had a Victorian theme, but over time, collectibles, larger pieces and wine accessories were featured.

“We were always ahead of the trends,” Fabbi said.

Customer activity dropped off in recent years, partly because of changing shopping trends, partly because of the rise of big box stores in the Okanagan Valley and partly because of road construction, Fabbi said.

The expansion of Highway 97 between Summerland and Peachland was a three-year process and proved an inconvenience for potential customers from the north.

Then, after the highway work was completed, Summerland upgraded its two primary entrance routes to the community, Rosedale Avenue and Prairie Valley Road.

The traffic disruptions meant fewer customers came to the community, to any of the retailers.

“Less traffic means less sales,” he said.

Fabbi said numerous retail businesses in Summerland were affected at the same time and for the same reasons.

The decision to close the store was a difficult one.

“We have strong emotional ties. We created Willowbrook Lane,” he said.

The closing will affect four permanent people on staff and five high school and university students.

 

“We’ve had a very loyal staff over the years,” he said. “They’re a big part of our success.”