But don’t expect owner Anne Baker Leazenby to be sad about it. Quite the opposite. Between the thinning shelves in the stockroom, Leazenby is all smiles as she looks back on her family’s four-plus decades of setting the standard for customer service and high-quality home furnishings, decor, gifts, and accessories.
“My mother always said to leave on a high note. This is the time,” Leazenby said, with the satisfaction of someone finishing a job well done. “For the first time in 44 years, I’ll get to have Christmas with my family. I’ll get to do the wrapping for my own family instead of wrapping for everybody else’s. Which I love to do! But now I’m looking forward to retirement.”
Hard to argue that.
The Bakers Rack began when Anne’s mother, Mary Dixon Baker, was looking for something to do and decided to open a store. “She believed in doing things to the best of her ability and always doing things correctly,” Anne said. “She has always stayed very honest with the customers, and that’s why we have the customers we have today.”
Community Becomes Family
Not only has direct family been involved in the store, but Anne says employees and customers have become like family, as well. “Loyalty is what built this store. It’s why we grew from selling 50 cent plants, which is how we started, to selling gifts, because that’s what our customers wanted, to delivering, because that’s what they asked for, to everything else we do.”
As The Bakers Rack adapted to customer demand, they also tried other subtle improvements, like offering free gift wrapping and recycling packaging material before it was ever popular.
Loyalty also explains the outpouring of support by those very customers when the store burned in 2002. “We had customers bringing us meals, offering trucks to move inventory, donating office space and telephone lines so we could keep working off site. It was incredible!” Anne remembers. “We had suppliers saying ‘What can we do?’ Manufacturers saying ‘We’ll bring inventory to get you back going.’ Our insurance paid us in under 60 days. Owensboro supports small businesses more than anywhere I’ve ever seen or been a part of.”
The Famous Polka Dots
In case you’re wondering, the iconic polka dot wrapping paper design, which carries through the theme of the whole store and even onto the delivery cars, came about from a happy accident out of necessity. As Anne recalls it, Mary Dixon Baker found a brown roll of wrapping paper with white polka dots on clearance in a discount bin at a wholesale store. She bought the last four rolls because she recognized any ribbon could go with that pattern. Obviously, it stuck, and today The Bakers Rack polka dot pattern is copyrighted and bought by the caseload. “We started with brown and white, but we also use white with brown, red with white at Christmas, graduation colors, and white on white for weddings,” Leazenby said.
The gigantic bows on top of the polka dot delivery cars were created by local artist Gary Bielefeld. But the polka dot cars can be attributed to Leazenby. Well, sort of. “I got the idea in the middle of a sermon at church,” she remembers, laughing. “I guess you could say it was divine intervention. I drew our polka dot pattern on a sketch of a car. The lady next to me drew a great big bow on it. And a man at the end of the pew just happened to be a car salesman, and he made it happen.”
Get it while you can
From now until August 30, all items in the store will be discounted progressively until everything is gone. At the time of this writing, everything in the store was marked down 30%.
Besides the normal inventory, all display cases, tables, and fixtures will also be sold in hopes of helping another local small business get started. Yet another example of their care for the community.
As for the employees, the Leazenby’s ensure they’ll find every employee another job in the community before the store closes.
And even in the midst of shutting down the business, customer loyalty is still shining through. The day The Bakers Rack announced their decision to close happened to be a Thursday, with going-out-of-business sales beginning that Monday. But on Friday morning, workers were surprised to see a line stretching from both registers out the front door and the back door with customers willing to pay full price for items and gifts they didn’t want to miss out on.
“This community is spectacular,” Anne said, proudly. “This city has provided us with 44 years of business. And we’ve done what a small business should always do – provide great service and invest everything back into the business. We’ve done that correctly, and now after 44 years we’re able to walk away and retire comfortably because of that great customer loyalty. That’s our reward. So now our reward to our customers is to greatly discount our inventory to thank them for their business. We couldn’t be happier.”