Westport’s Liberty Army & Navy to close after 70 years in business
WESTPORT — Eve Rothbard started working at her parents’ Liberty Army & Navy store when she was a child and now, nearly 70 years after it opened, Rothbard will close the business she came to own.
Rothsbard’s story is not a tragedy of small businesses fallen prey to online retail. Rather, Rothsbard said it’s simply time for her to retire and move on to mellower days with her grandchildren. The store will officially close May 31, but items are selling quickly, and at great values, Rothsbard, a Trumbull resident, said. We sat down with Rothbard to reflect on the business and her 30-year relationship with the Westport community.
Q: How did you come to own Liberty Army & Navy?
A: My parents started the store in 1950. It was located in Bridgeport then. They purchased it from somebody else. My sister and I owned it for 30 years, and then I bought her share because she retired years ago. Even as a kid I was involved in the store. I grew up in Fairfield, but the store moved to Westport in the early ’70s. As a kid I used to come in and help out with inventories and run the register, and then as a teenager I helped out. Then I left and pursued other interests. I worked in some offices for a while, figuring out where I wanted to be, and then I decided this is where I wanted to be. I stayed ever since and I’ve been happy. It’s been a long road, but a lot of fun.
Q: What is the relationship between your store and the armed forces?
A: The store started with a lot of surplus items leftover from World War II. It started in 1950 and World War II ended in the 1940s. It’s not as much surplus now. It’s evolved to casual and work clothing. We’ve just kept the name. It’s still fun to get surplus items and unusual items from World War II or the Vietnam War, though. It’s just neat to find stuff that nobody else has. It’s always a pleasure when people get excited about it.
Q: Why are you closing? Did the rise of online retail motivate your decision to close, as it has for many other local businesses?
A: It’s just the right time. It’s been coming gradually, but it just fell into place and felt right. Any small business today is affected by the internet, but overall, it’s been a good run. It really has. It’s all positive. It’s all good. It’s just the right time.
Q: What’s been the secret to your success?
A: We have a lot of long-term relationships with people and built up quite a following. We’re second-generation. A lot of people grew up in Westport and now their kids come in. We’ve always tried to give great service. We’ve stuck to a lot of basics, a lot of practical, good, smart clothing. I guess just listening to people and hearing what they want and need.
Q: What do you hope to do in retirement?
A: Relax. Be free. Not get up early to do deliveries. It’s bittersweet, but I’m very excited about the future and to relax. Play with the grandchildren, go to the beach, sleep.
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