F J Rogers Co, Florence Opticians to close in coming weeks

  • A pair of glasses which Larry Whalen, owner of Florence Opticians, is repairing. He is retiring after 40 years of business. GAZETTE STAFF/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Larry Whalen, owner of Florence Opticians, inspects a lens for accuracy. Whalen is retiring after 40 years of business. GAZETTE STAFF/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Bill Rogers, owner of FJ Rogers for the last 50 years, walks through the store which he will be closing. GAZETTE STAFF/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Bill Rogers, owner of FJ Rogers for the last 50 years, is closing the store in Florence. GAZETTE STAFF/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Bill Rogers, owner of FJ Rogers for the last 50 years, is closing the store in Florence. GAZETTE STAFF/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Bill Rogers, owner of FJ Rogers for the last 50 years, is closing the store in Florence. GAZETTE STAFF/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Bill Rogers, owner of FJ Rogers for the last 50 years, is closing the store in Florence. GAZETTE STAFF/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Larry Whalen, owner of Florence Opticians, cuts a lens to shape at his store. Whalen is retiring after 40 years of business. GAZETTE STAFF/CAROL LOLLIS

  • A pair of glasses which Larry Whalen, owner of Florence Opticians, is repairing. He is retiring after 40 years of business. —GAZETTE STAFF/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Larry Whalen, owner of Florence Opticians, cuts a lens to shape at his store. Whalen is retiring after 40 years of business. —GAZETTE STAFF/CAROL LOLLIS

For the Gazette
Published: 11/13/2016 12:28:11 PM

FLORENCE — The business landscape in this city village will change considerably in the coming weeks when the owners of two landmark small businesses close up shop for the last time.

After more than a century of serving the community, F J Rogers Co will close the 3 Main St. shop after an inventory sale that began last month winds down. Owner Bill Rogers says he’s ready to retire.

Meanwhile, not far away, Florence Opticians owner Larry Whalen will also retire and close his family-run business at 78 Maple St. on Dec. 31 after four decades.

Business leaders in Florence say the community will miss the two businesses, but they are optimistic they’ll be replaced by other small businesses that serve the neighborhood community.

Robert Ross, a former president of the Florence Business and Civic Association, said small businesses are the liveblood of the area. To him, they mean everything to Florence because of their role in the community.

After being asked what Florence would be without small businesses, he laughed and replied, “it wouldn’t!”

F J Rogers Co and Florence Opticians are survived by other longtime businesses like Florence Savings Bank, Florence Casket Shop, and more, but Ross said that people will certainly miss the two stores that have served generations of people over the years.

Ward 5 City Councilor David Murphy agreed.

“They’re not the sort of businesses where the service can be duplicated … it’s going to be a hole in that sense, in that it’s a service that can’t be replaced,” Murphy said.

F J Rogers opened in 1908

F J Rogers Co has been open since 1908. They’ve done business at three locations, starting first in a building that once stood on North Maple Street, then moving to the spot where Pizza Factory currently is, and concluding at their current home on Main Street.

“We’ve been a staple here in Florence … you could always depend on us being here,” Rogers said.

Rogers is the third generation to run the store, and he currently does business with the help of his son, Greg.

It began under his grandfather’s control as a harness shop that also sold other necessities for farmers.

The store evolved when Roger’s father took over in the 1920s, and he brought bicycles into the shop’s windows.

Then Bill stepped into the mix in 1967, adding his own touch to the store by starting to carry more sporting goods.

Now, Rogers is ready for retirement, and he has initiated an inventory sale in an attempt to sell the remainder of their products. The sale began Oct. 24.

The owner said that it has been truly satisfying seeing generations of families walk into their shop over the years. He will always be thankful for loyal customers, he said, who chose the business that he devoted his life to.

“What’s really going to get to me is the last time I turn the key in the lock,” said Rogers.

Florence Opticians

While it has not been open for a century like F J Rogers Co, Florence Opticians has still been serving customers for 40 years.

Whalen said the store was no more than a hole in the wall when his brother helped him start the business in 1976.

Since then, Whalen has successfully run the store on his own.

“I haven’t had five days off in 40 years. No vacations, no time off, so I guess it’s time to retire,” he said.

Whalen said that many people wake up in the morning dreading going to work, but his shop was a place he didn’t mind going into every day.

He loved helping generations of families, and interacting with a variety of different people.

Business has always been steady over the years, whether times were good or bad. Whalen said he believes that he’s been fortunate, and that his success is because customers always knew the face behind the counter.

“I was fair with people and they appreciated that, and I appreciated their business. It was a two-way street … we built a trust with one another, a friendship,” he said.

Those friendships, he said, are “worth more than money.”

The owner has not yet decided who he is going to give his store’s records to.

‘Throw-out society’

Both Whalen and Rogers agree that their businesses are unique because they are committed to fixing things, something that has become rare in this day and age.

“It’s a throw out society,” Whalen said.

Rogers feels the same way, pointing out that manufacturers nowadays are just looking to save nickels and dimes. He said that people can’t buy small parts anymore, and that the practice now is to throw something out when it breaks.

Despite this, Whalen said he has an optimistic view for the future of local small businesses.

“The center of Florence has always been based on small businesses, and I’m sure it’ll continue. It’s a neighborhood community,” he said.

Murphy explained how the small business tradition in Florence is based on people’s roots.

Many store owners grew up with one another, or have relatives that owned businesses in town, and these connections are what makes the area work so well.

As for F J Rogers Co and Florence Opticians, Murphy said they will be a tough act to follow.

There will be an unsatisfied demand in the absence of the two stores, Murphy said, so he hopes that a bike shop can take over when Rogers officially retires.

Due to the way the optometry field has changed, he thinks finding a replacement for Whalen will be difficult.


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