Bobby LeBoutillier is marking his birthday in a way no one would ever choose. The CEO of Waterloo Gadens is closing the store his grandparents opened 70 years ago in Devon.
"We're very sorry we're not going to be there (any longer)," LeBoutillier told TE Patch during a phone interview late Friday. "The community supported us a long, long time." In the end, he explains the economic downturn, which he says started in 2008 for the economy and especially the home building industry, simply caught up with Waterloo Gardens.
The result is Waterloo is consolidating its operations to one much larger store in Exton, twelve miles West of the Devon Store.
The decision to close the landmark Devon store on Lancaster Avenue was a difficult and personal one for the CEO and third generation of owner of the family-owned and operated business.
Our 'blood is in the ground there'
"I started working in the Devon store when I was six years old," LeBoutillier tells Patch. Sunday, the last day of business at the Devon store is also his 58th Birthday. "Our (family) blood is literally in the ground there," he explains. "I started there (as a kid) pulling weeds for my grandfather." LeBoutillier says he also personally built most of the store as it looks today, serving as the designer and general contractor for changes in the greenhouses, showrooms and grounds as the store evolved from its original design in the past decade or so.
"I'm very disappointed. I'm very sad for the people down there," he explained from the company's main office at the Exton location. LeBoutillier hopes Devon customers will make the trip out to the single remaining Waterloo Gardens store in Exton. You can see a map and directions to the store, about 12 miles west of Devon, by clicking here.
For most of the employees at the Devon Store Sunday is not just the last day of working at that location, it's the last day before they are out of work period. The company is laying off all but a handful of employees because the lone store standing simply doesn't can't support all the workers. LeBoutillier declined to put a specific number on how many people will be laid off when the doors finally close in Devon. He told Patch the company has about 100 employees between the Exton and Devon stores. Starting Monday that number will be shrinking.
Waterloo Gardens is hardly the first or only business in Tredyffrin and Easttown Townships to shutdown as the sour economy rolls through Chester County.
Monday on TE Patch, the economic realities that lead to an emotionally difficult decision. It's something that is literally changing the landscape of Lancaster Avenue.
Two weeks ago LeBoutillier posted this leter to customers about the decision to move the closing from late 2012 to now. You can also see it here on the Waterloo Gardens website.
Dear Valued Waterloo Gardens Customer,
As you may know, in early June we made the decision to consolidate our operations to 200 N. Whitford Road in Exton in an effort to create a more exceptional shopping experience and bring customer service to an even higher level. As the retail industry, and specifically the home and garden market, continues to feel the effects of a slower-than-expected economic recovery, we made this decision for the overall, long-term stability of Waterloo Gardens.
Since then, we have made the decision to to close the Devon location faster than originally anticipated. Our target close date has been moved to July 15. Our Exton store will remain open to accommodate you and all of your needs. We invite you to visit our Exton location, which because of its larger retail space, houses a much more diverse and expansive inventory of gifts for the home and garden, outdoor furniture, and flowers and premium plant materials.
Thank you for your continued loyalty to Waterloo Gardens. We look forward to serving you at Exton, and providing you with the excellent customer service and unique product selection you have come to expect from Waterloo Gardens.
Roberts LeBoutillier, CEO