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R&L Shop closing doors after 40 years
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After 40 years on the Covington square, R&L Shop is closing its doors, ending a long-standing family tradition of customer service and attention to detail which established the shop as a pillar of the downtown community.


"It's just an old story that's been told over and over again," said store owner Karen Stone Long of her decision to close the shop.


Long said she made the decision after several years of declining sales, and also because she wants to spend more time with her ailing mother and four grandchildren.


"So many people like malls and outlets," Long said. "I do think there's still a demand for personal service, which is what we always gave."


Long said she believes the rise of malls and outlet stores has been hardest for small independent women's boutiques such as her own shop, which put a lot of emphasis on personalized customer attention and have built long-standing relationships with their customers through the years.


"It was fun. I like every part of this business," Long said. "I love picking out clothes and thinking about certain customers and what size they wear and what color."


Owned and operated for the past 20 years by Long, the women's boutique took its name from the first letter in the name of Long's mother, Ruth Steele Stone, and the first letter in the name of Long's aunt Louise Steele Johnson. The two sisters ran the shop together for years after Long's mother, who had extensive experience working in retail for Belk Department Store, decided she wanted to open up her own shop and went to her sister with the idea.


Though born and raised in Newton County, Long lived all over the country before eventually moving back to become a co-owner of the store when her aunt was ready to retire. For several years, Long and her mother owned and operated the store together until Stone decided that she was ready to retire. Long then took over full ownership of the store, aided by several part-time employees.


"This has been so emotional for me," Long said of the store closing. "The more the store empties, the harder it gets."


Prices are drastically marked down at R&L Shop, with all stock marked 30 to 50 percent off. Once most of the spring and summer attire has been sold, Long said she will bring out the store's winter clothing. Long said she expects to close the doors of R&L for good some time in August.


As the owner of the store's building, Long said she has already gotten several enquiries about leasing the much-coveted square space.


"As a landlord, you want to really try to have the mix stay good," said Long, who has been involved with Main Street Covington for years. "I really believe in the Main Street program. It's the best thing that's ever happened to the square."


Long has nothing but praise for the square and thinks it's one of Covington's greatest assets.


"We can keep that small-town feeling as long as we can keep the square," Long said. "I think people in Covington take the square for granted."


Once her shop has closed for good, Long said she will greatly miss the daily interaction with her customers who she says have become close friends after so many years.


"You know their hurts and their happiness," Long said. "I'm going to miss all of that so much."

As news of the shop's impending closing has spread, Long said she has received an outpouring of emotion from customers who have patronized R&L for decades.


"There have been so many sweet, sweet comments," Long said. "It makes you feel good that people care."