BELPRE - Marie Gustke is ready to retire after nearly seven decades as a small business owner in Belpre.
"I turned 86 on Oct. 20 and my family has been telling me to retire for a few years now," said Gustke, who owns the Memory Mall near Neff's Country Loft and Bob's Market. "It's now time."
Gustke opened the Memory Mall antique vendors market in 1998 after having owned three other stores in Belpre.
Photo by Jolene Craig
Marie Gustke, who has owned several businesses in Belpre for the last 66 years, will soon retire and close the Memory Mall, located near Neff’s Country Loft and Bob’s Market.
"My husband Charles came back from World War II in September 1946 and we got married the next month and opened Gustke's Store Co. in Belpre then," she said. "So, for 66 years I have worked in Belpre with the people."
Along with the original Gustke's, she and her husband purchased a variety store in 1964 that was going to go out of business and opened Belpre True Value in 1981.
"Selling the hardware store was a difficult decision," Gustke said. "It was 1995 and I laid in bed one night praying about what to do and not long after a family from Athens came and bought it; I saw that as my answer from God."
That was the first time Gustke tried to retire, she said.
"When the hardware store closed it seemed like a good time to retire, but I had to get back with people," Gustke said. "I really missed talking to people and have really enjoyed it."
At times, the Memory Mall has had as many as 20 vendors at a time with a variety of items from furniture to knickknacks.
"Every day something different happens and I've never been bored," Gustke said. "I have been very pleased with this business and enjoyed every moment."
The decision to close the Memory Mall was not Gustke's, as Bob's Market and Greenhouse, which owns the building and property the mall occupies, is planning to expand.
"I needed the nudge to retire," Gustke said. "It will be sad for me to go, but it is time and I'm curious to see what Bob's Market does with the space."
With her free time, Gustke said she plans to volunteer at the Belpre Historical Society's Farmers' Castle Museum.
"I will miss the people the most, but I hope to see a lot of them at the museum," she said.
Plans are to close the Memory Mall by the end of December.
"This has been a good ride for me," Gustke said. "I have loved every minute of it."