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Monday May 21st, 2018 8:55AM

Schrages to close Saul's in downtown Gainesville after almost 80 years in business

By B.J. Williams News Director

Yet another longtime retailer in downtown Gainesville will close its doors. Saul's plans to be out of business by the end of this month.

Lawrence B. Schrage, known to his friends and customers as Lorry, made the announcement in letters to Saul's customers this past week before going public with the news.

Saul's has been a fixture on the Gainesville square since 1939, when Schrage's parents William "Bill" and Augusta "Gussie" opened the store.

"My father came out of Germany when the Nazis took over and came to New York," Schrage said in an interview late last week. "[He] met my mother and they came down South where my mother had grown up and they saw this little open store on the square in Gainesville."

Even though the economy was struggling to come out of the Great Depression and the Tornado of '36 that decimated the Gainesville square, the Schrages opened the store.

"It was tough times in those days," Schrage said. "We've gone through many tough times, but we've always survived, thank goodness."

Initially, the store sold more general merchandise, but Schrage said his parents soon realized there was a market for more upscale women's clothing.

"It wasn't what it is now. They found out very soon after they came into business that they could sell better stuff...and [the store] would be more unique," Schrage said.

Schrage began working full time at Saul's when he returned to Gainesville after college; his wife Sherrie joined him when they married in 1976. That was the same year Saul's made a move to the corner of Main Street and Washington, anchoring one corner of the square. 

Not only is Saul's known for selling fine women's fashion, the store has outfitted what seems like nearly every child in Gainesville with their first pair of shoes. Schrage said there's no way to know how many they've sold.

"I've wondered about that," Schrage said. "It would be a phenomenal number. I have no idea how many it would be!"

Schrage said closing Saul's is bittersweet, even though he and Sherrie know they want to retire and "do some other things" as he put it. He said he'll miss seeing customers every day.

"I know I'll miss so many friends that we've known all these years, that knew my parents. That's made it a tough decision," Schrage said. "You can't make it this day and time without a good customer base. We've been so fortunate."

Schrage said he'll also miss his employees.

"We have Carolyn (McNeal) working now, who's been there 30 years. Of course, Gola (Godfrey) has been with us, I think, 18 years...they're like my family," Schrage said.

Schrage owns the building that houses Saul's, but he said he's unsure what type of business might occupy the space in the future. 

"I hope it's something that'll be compatible to the new downtown," Schrage said. 

A retirement sale begins at Saul's on Monday, Feb. 5. The store will maintain normal hours of operation - 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. weekdays and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays - until the merchandise is liquidated.

  • Associated Categories: Homepage, Business News, Local/State News, Submitted News
  • Associated Tags: retail, Downtown Gainesville Square, Saul's, women's clothing, Lorry Schrage
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