photo by: Chad Lawhorn/Journal-World photo
The idea didn’t take at first with Jane Bateman. She was happily handling fabrics all day, creating drapes, slip covers and other items that make an interior design complete.
Then her boss at Bud Jennings Carpets in downtown Lawrence told her about plans to move the store to far south Lawrence as his sons were entering the business. With the move and expansion, they probably weren’t going to focus on fabrics and window coverings anymore.
“They said, ‘would you like to buy that part of the business?’ and I said no,” Bateman recalled this week. “Then I thought about it some more.”
Or, perhaps more aptly put, she realized the hidden meaning behind the question.
“I realized,” she said, “if I said no, I may not have a job.”
She reversed her decision, said yes, and hasn’t had to worry about having a job for the last 44 years. As owner of Jane Bateman The Interiors Store, she’s had plenty of jobs, ranging from all the business management tasks down to handling the fabrics for drapes, valances and other items that make up window coverings, which is the main product the store sells.
“I truly love the fabrics,” Bateman said. “I will miss touching all of it because I can’t have all of it in my home.”
Bateman is closing her store, located just off south Iowa at 2108 W. 27th St., at the end of this month. She said the decision had nothing to do with the pandemic or the economy. Business had been good. However, the lease on her location was due to expire Sept. 30, and a new lease would have involved a multiyear commitment.
“We thought maybe 44 years is long enough,” she said.
Most of the store’s inventory is already gone, as the business long had focused on specially made products ordered in advance of purchase. Now, she’s down to selling some store fixtures and other items before the store’s last day.
Then her next task will be figuring out how to replace the good feelings the business gave her for more than four decades.
“You get to help people make things pretty in their homes, and they smile when they see it,” she said. “I’m going to miss that.”
Bateman said that during her retirement, she’d stay in Lawrence, where she has family and where she has been an active member of the community. She has served on many boards and is a former Lawrence-Douglas County planning commissioner.
The growth of the city always has played a role in her business. Lawrence doesn’t build homes at nearly the pace that it once did in the 1990s and 2000s, but Bateman pointed to a different trend as one that has affected her business and probably other retailers more.
“I think the town has grown into one where more people shop elsewhere because more people are working elsewhere,” she said. “If you are working in Kansas City and you shop over your lunch hour, you are doing your shopping in Kansas City.”
Bateman, though, said she still thought there was a “very big contingent” of local residents who wanted to shop locally, especially for products where quality can vary widely.
In other words, Lawrence’s retail environment didn’t push Bateman to close the store, and she certainly hasn’t regretted her change of decision some 44 years ago to open it. But, she also will note that the reason she said no in the first place was a true one.
“My parents owned a hardware store, and I knew how hard it was to run a business,” she said.
What makes it so hard? Many things, but Bateman pointed to one essential task that certainly can be the definition of hard work.
“It is trite, but you have to focus on customer service to be successful,” she said. “You have to work hard to find a solution that works for everybody.”
photo by: Courtesy: Lawrence Home Builders Association
Maybe you are like me and not allowed to get too close to the drapes in your own home. (Even after I promised to never throw another toga party, alarms still go off if I get too close.) Regardless, you’ll have a chance over the next two weekends to look at other homes and their contents. Lawrence’s Fall Parade of Homes is set for 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday and again on Oct. 2 and Oct. 3.
The parade may look a little different this year for a couple of reasons. One is by — and because of — design.
“We are noticing more and more contemporary-style homes,” said Bobbie Flory, executive director of the Lawrence Home Builders Association, which organizes the parade. “Contemporary is a popular design. We are seeing it in southeast Lawrence and the west side of town too. It is kind of fun to see it happen.”
The tour has at least two homes with prominent elements of contemporary design, which often includes more extreme and varying roof angles and a mix of exterior materials.
The second change isn’t one that people are cheering, but rather are living with. The parade has only eight homes, making it the smallest the LHBA has ever done, Flory said.
“The homes are selling, and it is hard for builders to keep inventory available,” Flory said. “We are excited to have the homes that we have.”
Flory said in addition to homes selling quickly, there’s also the issue of some homes simply taking longer to be completed and thus not being ready for the tour. Anybody who has tried to buy an appliance lately can understand the time that is being added because of supply-chain delays. But Flory said builders were facing another challenge too: finding labor.
“I do hear a lot of grumblings that I would be done but I’m just waiting on the painter to show up or this or that crew to show up,” Flory said.
There is no admission cost to attend this year’s parade, and a complete list of houses and addresses can be found online at lawrenceparade.com.