Mary Go Round owner Claire Williams and manager Grace Sturdevant have been busy cleaning out the shop and selling the rest of their inventory, preparing to close after 30 years in Tunkhannock. STAFF PHOTO/MICHAEL WINTERMUTE
BY MICHAEL WINTERMUTE
Wyoming County Press Examiner
It will be a sad day when, in February’s dismal frost, one less shop graces Tioga Street’s storefronts in Tunkhannock.
‘Mary-Go-Round,’ a business of some 30 years, will officially shut down by the end of this month.
Mary Lynn Loftus and her sister Claire Williams started the business in May of 1983 at the corner of Tioga and Warren Street, where the Old Store is currently rooted.
The idea was simple – offer people gifts they couldn’t find anywhere else. Needless to say, that business model worked.
While Williams pursued other career options, Loftus continued to grow the business, eventually moving it to its current Tioga Street location next to Twig’s.
When Loftus died in 2006, she left the responsibility of running the store to her daughter Mauri Lawler.
Living outside of Philadelphia, Lawler knew it wouldn’t be feasible for her to run the business alone, and recruited Williams as a co-owner.
Williams has run the business for the last eight years, taking an early retirement from her job as a social worker to staff the post.
“When I first took over, I hadn’t been involved with the store since it first opened, so I figured I’d run it for one to two years to get things in order before closing down,” Williams said.
She soon realized that the business meant more to her than she originally thought – and she had a knack for it.
Plus, the loyal customers the business had accrued wouldn’t let her off the hook that easily.
“It was a big deal for me just to become involved in the town,” Williams said. “It was nice to have a sense of belonging, and I really enjoyed the business end of it.”
Over the years, the establishment became somewhat of a tourist attraction for surrounding counties.
According to Williams, much of the business’ success has been due to the support of out-of-towners.
Despite hardly ever coming across hard times, Williams, Lawler and other family members decided in December that the 30-year anniversary was a good time to close up.
“We were all here in December and someone said, ‘Why does it feel different this year?’” Williams said.
After some discussion, they came to the conclusion that it would be better to go out on a high note than to go out of business.
“We’re still solvent – not struggling for business,” Williams said. “Everybody is busier, and we don’t want to be here and have it become a burden.”
For the family, Mary-Go-Round has been a unifying force. No matter what, the business always remained a point of contact and collaboration.
In Williams’ eyes, that is the most important aspect of the business – the lasting impression it had on her and her family.
“We all became so close. We always had to keep in touch,” Williams said. “We have such a good time running it.”
She added: “That became the point.”
“For so many years, your job is your life. It’s been so nice to enjoy getting up and going to work. The people here are wonderful to us,” Williams said. “This is what life’s supposed to be like.”
From her perspective, the last eight years have been a serendipitous journey, starting with an unfortunate death and ending with a new door opening.
“None of this was planned. John Lennon was right – life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans,” Williams said. “Now, I just want to go home.”
After closing up the shop, Williams will return to her home in Waverly and indulge in “a little more spontaneity.”