When Melisa Riordan started working at her family’s store on Church Street six years ago, she thought the shop would remain for a long time. But on the day after Christmas, she announced to customers that her family business, Worthington’s, would be closing in the spring.
"It’s a family thing, three generations. It’s very tough," Riordan said. "It’s upsetting, because I always felt, growing up, it would be here forever."
After 46 years in business, Worthington’s Cards & Gifts will close its doors in February or March, according to store owners. The business, started by Laurette Hipple and located at 113 Church St. N.W., announced its closing in December. Since then, customers have been coming in to offer their good wishes to the family as they shop for cards or sale items.
"I’m going to miss it," said Cleo Murphy, who was shopping for a desk lamp. Murphy has shopped at Worthington’s since she moved to Vienna in 1965. She knew Hipple and had several friends who worked at the shop. "It has a charm and a lot to offer."
Worthington’s stream of customers began in 1956, when founder Laurette Hipple saw a need to open a store in Vienna offering books, gifts and cards. Hipple had been a radio actress in Chicago, Hollywood and New York, and she decided to open the store after settling in Northern Virginia with her husband, after whom the store is named.
When Worthington’s was located at its original location at 102 Church St., Hipple paid $75 a month for rent. In 1958, when the building that housed the Vienna Volunteer Fire Department was up for sale, the family bought the property and moved to its present location on Church Street. Hipple also decided to concentrate on selling gifts and cards and removed books from the inventory.
"It’s part of old Vienna," said customer Mo Solterer, as she browsed the store.
As Vienna and Northern Virginia grew, residents continued to frequent Worthington’s, some of them being customers since the 1950s and 1960s.
"Most of the regulars coming in here have come for 40 years, 30 years," said 15-year-old Caitlin Hale, a Worthington’s employee since late last year.
Yet the same growth forced Worthington’s to compete with the malls, franchises and discount stores of the area, including nearby Tysons Corner. While business never suffered, holding its own against other retailers has been difficult, according to co-owner Vicki Young, daughter of Laurette Hipple.
"During her later years, mother did maintain the business pretty much because Worthington’s — and her customers — meant so much to her," said Young via e-mail. "She was very much aware that Worthington’s was an institution in Vienna and very proud of it."
Hipple died in September 2000, but Riordan continued to manage the business for another two years.
"It’s been such a big part of her," Riordan said of her grandmother.
Like the nearby Southern States on Maple Avenue, which closed in November, Worthington’s closing marks the changing times. Young and her sister are in final negotiations to sell the property, in order to settle Hipple’s estate. Locals have heard unconfirmed rumors that the building will be torn down.
The Planning and Zoning Department of the Town of Vienna has not received any permit applications regarding the property.
"We’re all very sad. It’s been a wonderful place to work," said employee Norma Simmons on the store’s closing. There are "lots of old friends that come into the shop."