Necessity and a sour economy have forced the Lucille Ball-Desi Arnaz Center to close its gift shop.
Last month, all of the inventory from the gift shop, which is located at 300 N. Main St., was moved to the Lucy-Desi Museum and Gift Shop and the Desilu Playhouse, both of which are located on West Third Street.
''Essentially, everything that was in the gift shop was already in the playhouse and the museum, so we felt (the gift shop) was redundant,'' said Mike LaTone, president of the center's Board of Directors. ''We decided to consolidate. It just doesn't make sense to operate out of three locations for a lot of reasons.''
The Lucille Ball-Desi Arnaz Center has announced plans to close the gift shop and sell the building, which is located on the corner of North Main and Third streets. All of the gift shop’s inventory has been moved to the nearby Desilu Playhouse and the Lucy-Desi Museum & Gift Shop.
P-J photo by Kristen Johnson
LaTone said eventually, the center plans to sell the gift shop building. During a board of directors meeting set for today, LaTone said board members would decide whether they want to list the building and determine its selling price.
One way or the other, LaTone said the center ''really can't afford to keep'' the gift shop building - primarily because operating out of three buildings ''doesn't make a lot of sense.'' And it makes even less sense, LaTone said, to take customers through the playhouse and museum only to send them across a busy thoroughfare in order to purchase collectibles and other items.
Even so, LaTone said he is reluctant to sell the building.
''Nobody wants to give up property - especially in a downtown area - but the fact is that we've got to change,'' he said. ''It just doesn't make sense to keep doing things the way we've been doing them. I would honestly rather rent the building. A tenant paying $1,200 to $1,500 a month would really help our cash flow.''
LaTone said he has already shown the gift shop building to ''a couple'' of prospective buyers, but he hasn't had any bites just yet.
Two part-time employees have been brought back, LaTone said, and are working at the museum and playhouse. There's also a person staffing the center's mail-order operation, which is currently housed in the gift shop building. After the Lucy-Desi Days festival later this month, LaTone said the mail-order operation would be moved to the playhouse.
''It's a decision made out of necessity and made because the economy isn't really great right now,'' he said. ''To be honest with you, I don't see this as a bad thing at all. It's just another decision - a hard one - that we had to make in order to keep the center that we all love up and running. That's all.''
Closing and selling the gift shop is just the latest in a string of decisions the center's Board of Directors has had to make in recent months as it tries to deal with a financial situation LaTone has called ''fragile'' and move in new directions. Several employees have been laid off and hours at the gift shop, museum and playhouse were recently reduced as part of the board's efforts to trim expenses to keep the center open. In addition, the terms of three former board members - Bill Daly, Caroline Seymour and Chuck Ludwig - recently expired and the center is working on filling those seats.
Center officials are also waiting to announce the hire of a new executive director, an announcement that LaTone has said is ''just waiting for the right time.''
''I think there's a lot of good stuff going on,'' he said. ''In spite of some of the decisions we've had to make, I still think we're doing the right things. Change is hard, sometimes, but our ultimate goal is protecting the center and making it stable and profitable for years to come.''