In 1979, Steve Tharp had just retired from the Marines as a single father with a 5-year-old daughter, Kelly, to feed, clothe and take care of. He opened a furniture store in Twentynine Palms, Calif., and set out to be a good father and retailer in that order.
Mission accomplished. On Saturday, Kelly’s Future closed its doors after 40 years of serving San Bernardino County residents. Forty years is a long time doing anything, so Tharp has mixed emotions about the end. “Good days and bad days,” he said last week, just 48 hours before he locked his doors for the last time.
Ever since he made the announcement earlier in the month, people stopped by the store – which moved to nearby Yucca Valley in 1988 – to share stories of Kelly’s Future with Tharp – one last visit, one last goodbye.
“People say, ‘Our house is full of your furniture,’” Tharp said. “It’s been gratifying how many people hold Kelly’s Future in such high regard.”
The final day of business was May 25. Tharp offered deep discounts on his stock in the weeks leading up to the last day. He enjoyed watching people walk away with items they may not have had the budget for without the retirement sale.
“I feel a little bit like Santa Claus,” he said, smiling. “It feels good.”
The choice to sell the business or close for retirement came down to one simple thing for him. “I didn’t want someone having my daughter’s name on the business,” he said. “We’d rather just liquidate the inventory and retire.”
The last few weeks have been a whirlwind for Tharp and his wife and business co-owner, Janice.
“So many people have come into the store to tell Steve they are going to miss him,” Janice said. “He’s been an icon in the desert.”
Steve Tharp turns 68 in August. He said retirement will give him time to spend with family, especially those living far away. Steve’s mother is 92 years old and lives in Kentucky, where he was raised before joining the military at 19.
He’s ready for some leisure time and traveling – lot of traveling, he said. And what of his daughter, the store’s namesake?
“She never got into the furniture business,” Steve Tharp said. “I think she saw selling furniture was hard as hell, so she went and got her master’s and is happy – and I’m happy for her.”