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Burton’s makes final sale after 43 years in business

POSTED: November 25, 2013 12:18 a.m.

On March 19, 1970, Burton’s department store held its grand opening on the downtown square in Gainesville. Billed as a store “with a new concept in shopping,” the store carried a variety of clothing, both men’s and women’s, as well as furniture.

On Saturday, more than 43 years later, Burton’s closed the doors for the last time.

“We’re not sad, we’re just tired,” said Robert Burgen, nephew of store owner Nathan Burgen. “It is just a thing that had to be done.”

The closure was not due to financial hardship, but rather to retirement, he said. Nathan Burgen, who originally started the store with his brother Jake Burgen and partner Allen Doveton, is 87 years old and decided it was time to close up shop.

Virginia Blakely has worked for Nathan Burgen for the past 54 years, 18 of which were spent at the store in Gainesville.

“It’s the end of an era,” she said. “I do hate that it’s leaving Gainesville, but that is out of my control.”

In its four decades of operation, Burton’s saw many changes to the retail market. When the store opened, the standard price for a woman’s dress was $7.99 and a pair of tennis shoes cost $2.99, a far cry from today’s prices.

“These types of stores are great and old-timey, but in today’s world it’s difficult to operate them,” Robert Burgen said. “But this store has always been profitable, it’s just time.

“There was really no one to take it over.”

However, the community turned out in droves to bid the store farewell. On Thursday, the first day of its closing sale, lines of up to 25 people waited to check out at the register, and the crowd continued into Friday.

Local resident Jane Range has been shopping at Burton’s for more than 20 years and visited the store on Friday to browse the merchandise for the last time.

“I like the fact that it is a family-owned business, and that you can deal with the same people every time you come,” she said. “I’m sad that it is closing. I’ve been telling everyone how much I’m going to miss it.

“I’d like to see another locally-owned business come in. I want something else here that serves the needs that Burton’s did,” Range said.

Currently, there are no plans for the location, and Nathan Burgen has put the building up for sale.

The building Burton’s occupies was originally the National Bank of Gainesville, one of the few structures on the square to survive the devastating 1936 tornado that destroyed much of the city and killed more than 200 people, Robert Burgen said. According to the deed, it was built around 1880.

The name Burton’s was derived from the last names of the original business partners, Burgen and Doveton.

Nathan Burgen still owns Gold’s Store in Cornelia, which sells most of the same items that Burton’s did.


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