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Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Store closing opens door for business expansion

Friday, April 15, 2011

The storefront where The Front Page has operated in downtown Monett since 2005 was empty this week with the closing of the store. The future of the space, however, is assured as Bruner's Pharmacy plans to expand. [Times Photo by Murray Bishoff]
A change came to business offerings in downtown Monett with the closing of a long established retailer and prospects advancing for expansion of another.

The Front Page, primarily a women's clothing store which had operated in downtown Monett for two decades, closed its doors. Owner John Page had announced a week-long sale, but the store closed in two days after clearing out its inventory.

"We weren't expecting to close that fast," Page said. "It was the busiest we've ever been, even though it was the same sale we have five times a year."

Page had considered expanding and was not initially looking at closing his Monett operation.

"The building had been purchased and our lease had run out," Page said. "We didn't have any other place that would fit our needs. We had 5,000 square feet in storage and use of an elevator. What we actually need is a warehouse, like we have at our Neosho store, 14,000 square feet with a loading dock."

The Front Page had been located at 319 E. Broadway since 2005, taking the space previously occupied by Jack Frost Printing, after previously operating at 404 E. Broadway, now used by Mocha Jo's. The building had since been purchased by Mike Brownsberger, whose clothing store abuts the building on the west. John Bruner, who operates Bruner Pharmacy on the east side of the Front Page, offered to buy the building and signed a contract to close the deal.

Bruner said he worked with Page to find another location for the clothing store, but nothing worked out. Bruner said he had hoped to find an arrangement that would keep Page in Monett and expressed surprise at rapid closing.

Bruner has looked at options for his building for some time. Founder Gale Bruner had purchased the old Lakeland Lodge property off the north access road for Highway 60, between Hickory and Kyler, with an eye toward relocating. In recent years John Bruner confirmed they have looked at a number of options for both interior and exterior changes to their building.

"I'd love to expand this," Bruner said. "The pharmacy is constricted in the space we have. We need to do more compounding to handle the volume of business that's coming in. We're going to keep all of our Hallmark and gift items. That's not going to go away."

Bruner said he is looking at expanding his front-end pharmacy line with more medical supplies. Acquiring the building next door opens possibilities for incorporating these goals in part by connecting the two showrooms through the shared wall.

Bruner planned to meet with his architect today to explore options further. He said the entire process will take time. There are several inches difference in the height of the floors between the two stores, and Bruner is looking at raising the floor in the pharmacy, a process that could take several months. He is also interested in other steps that will help relieve flooding problems.

A lot of the details, including hiring a contractor, have not yet been worked out. Bruner hesitated to announce how his business will change or when. He planned to keep moving in that direction, and said when the business expands, he will hire more people."

Page said he would remain in business in his Neosho store, which he has had for 20 years, and his Carthage store, which has been in business for 27 years. Page owns the building or has a long-term lease at his other locations.

"We saved the fixtures and the hangers," Page said. "We really liked doing business in Monett. We had 20 good years there."

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