After 12 years in Chewelah, The Deli and Whale of A Tale bookstore will close on Saturday, March 30 due to lack of business.
“It’s just so sad,” said co-owner Lorraine Autrey.
Autrey and her husband Dean opened The Deli in June 2001 after moving back to the area where they grew up, graduating from Jenkins High School in the 1970s.
The deli serves coffee and sandwiches made to order with fresh ingredients daily. They also have a meeting room where Kiwanis and Lions meet monthly and regular morning coffee drinking groups meet there as well. They also have over 80,000 used books for sale.
It was always Dean’s dream to own a bookstore, Lorraine said, and before purchasing local property, the Autreys owned the Whale of A Tale across from the Northtown Mall in Spokane, which remained successful for three years.
When they thought about opening a store in Chewelah they also saw the need for a deli at that time and that became their primary business.
“After three days of opening I had to quit my job and come work here it was so swamped with business,” Autrey said.
But in a place that was once buzzing with people everyday, Autrey said it is hard to get people in the door now with new competition like Subway and Safeway.
“You can find a sandwich on every corner now,” Autrey said.
Electronic readers like the Kindle and Nook have also hurt the bookstore side of the business, she said.
Many people have stopped by to say how much they will miss the deli, Lorraine said, as it holds so much history for the community. She said customers come back to visit every year, and are going to notice its absence especially during Chataqua.
When they first opened, the Autreys were renting part of the building out to two other businesses. For one, Dean’s mother and brother owned To-Go Pizza, which was successful on its own before competition moved to town, and closed after a few years. Lorraine’s son tried offering pizza again through the Deli this year using the same recipe, but it did not help business enough.
“We can’t get the people in the door to try it,” she said.
Since business has declined, in August 2012, Dean Autrey left to live in North Dakota for the year to run a food cart he calls the “Chuck Wagon” to feed the oil truckers. He plans to stay until August 2013 to make enough money to pay off their mortgage at home. Lorraine hasn’t seen him since he left.
The Deli building at 114 E Main Street is now listed for sale and Lorraine plans to go back to being a certified nursing assistant, which is something she has always loved doing. The Autreys will remain in the Chewelah community because it is important to them, Lorraine said, however they are unsure of their future plans on whether or not they will continue with selling books or start a different business. They are donating some of their book stock to local senior housing complexes and consignment stores.
“We’ve had a good run,” Lorraine said. “It’s time to start a new chapter in our life.”
By Kellie Trudeau, The Independent Staff
In This Photo:
Owners of The Deli, Lorraine and Dean Autrey, in 2004.