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Beaufort's Bay Street will soon lose another long-standing business, this one bearing the iconic Lipsitz name and operated by a man who has been selling shoes on the historic corridor for 40 years.
Lipsitz Shoes owner Neil Lipsitz, 52, announced he will close the store at the end of February, a move prompted by the economy and health problems.
The closure will mark the end of an era for the Lipsitz family, who have operated one or more stores on Bay Street for the past 109 years, starting in 1902 with a dry goods store.
As he leaves the shoe business -- and Bay Street -- Lipsitz said it feels like a "piece of me is going" with the store.
"It's all I've done my whole life," he said. "But life goes on, and this is what life's dealt me."
Lipsitz began selling shoes when he was just 12 years old at his parents' Lipsitz Department Store across the street, which closed about two years ago.
He opened Lipsitz Shoes in 1998 at 828 Bay St.
The building also houses The Lollipop Shop of Beaufort, owned by Cindy Jacobus.
Besides being a supportive landlord, Jacobus said Lipsitz has fitted shoes for four generations of her family, from her parents to her grandchildren.
He helped her find the right shoes after she had foot surgery and helped fit her late husband -- who was close friends with Lipsitz -- for footwear that alleviated pain from knee problems.
"It's sad to see him go," said Jacobus, who's lived in Beaufort for more than 26 years. "But I know it's going to be a good thing for Neil personally."
Although today is his employees' last workday, Lipsitz said he will keep the store open through the end of February. Everything is for sale: shoes, furniture and other merchandise, he said.
Lipsitz has a sales contract for the building, but declined to name the potential buyer.
"I'm going to miss being an occupant downtown," Lipsitz said. "I just want to say thanks to all the loyal customers I've had."
Lipsitz's announcement caps a year of economic turmoil that plagued many businesses in Beaufort's historic downtown.
The former Bay Street Trading Co., an independent bookstore that operated for more than 30 years, closed in September. Kathleen's Bar and Grille also closed, and other businesses have said they're forging on but struggling.
Some say, overall, the local economy appears to be getting stronger.
"It's picking back up, but it's going to be a long crawl out of this," said LaNelle Fabian, executive director of Main Street Beaufort, USA. "We just hope the businesses can remain strong enough until we get out of this."
Fabian has said the nonprofit organization wants to work with the city's Redevelopment Commission and Historic Beaufort Foundation to find tenants for vacancies, plan downtown's future and attract businesses that attract residents, not just shoppers.
The organization plans to hire a firm to conduct a market analysis next year to help Main Street Beaufort draft a business-recruitment plan, Fabian said.