Irish Import Gift Shop Closing

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ASHLEY -- One of the last remaining retail businesses on Main Street in one Luzerne County community is closing.

The owners of Clarke's Irish Imports and Flower Shop in Ashley have given up their fight to stay open.

Between a harsh economic climate over the past few years and a shift in the way shoppers buy their goods, the owners of Clarke's say they can no longer compete.

We spoke with the owners as they prepared for an emotional goodbye to the store on North Main Street in Ashley.

"Our faithful customers, we say thank you so much."

It was 34 years ago that Jane and Ray Clarke began selling imported Irish goods and, eventually, floral arraignments in Ashley. They say at first business boomed.

"Oh, God, it was good. It was hard in the beginning, but it paid off," said Ray Clarke.

"It did grow and we had a good customer base, and our flowers, we started our flowers about a year or so after we opened the shop," said Jane Clarke.

For decades, Irish apparel drove the business, but the owners say with more and more stuff showing up online, they've noticed a decline in sales over the past five years.

"I think it's because people go to the supermarkets and the big box stores. They're so convenient. They can get everything at one store."

Despite their decision to close Clarke's Irish Imports and Flower Shop on North Main Street, Jane Clarke still believes there's a need for the charm small businesses offer.

"I think there's a service, a personalized service. I think small businesses work well with our customers," said Jane.

"Ashley's been good for us, and I thought we were good for Ashley," Ray added.

The owners finished their last flower order Monday and plan to close the store at the end of this month as they try to sell off the last bit of merchandise.

Despite closing the store, the couple are staying positive and say they're looking forward to retiring.

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