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Landmark children's furniture store closing

Owner of Juvenile Junction Kenneth Keefe is proud of the all-wood furniture lines he carries.

Published January 15, 2006

PINELLAS PARK - Kenneth Keefe showed a visitor around Juvenile Junction, explaining how preferences for baby furniture and gear have changed over the years.

"That crib converts to a toddler bed and then to a double bed," Keefe said, pointing to a piece from Baby's Dream Furniture Inc. Convertible pieces are much preferred now compared to single-use items.

He points out strollers, car seats and rockers, sounding like a proud owner of a successful enterprise. He is.

But Juvenile Junction will close Feb. 25.

It is time to quit, Keefe says.

"I'll be 80 next month," he said, adding that he won't retire completely. He plans to help out his children in their real estate business.

"I would never sit. I want to be busy every minute," he said.

It seems he has been since he graduated from college in 1951. One of his first jobs was going door to door, making appointments with young mothers to come back in the evenings when husbands were home so he could demonstrate his Wonda-Chair, an early convertible piece that had numerous uses.

"I'd start about 9 a.m. and get home about 9 at night."

He moved to Florida in 1958.

Juvenile Junction has been at 7101 U.S. 19 N for 24 years, he said, and was at another location for a number of years before that. It is open six days a week.

In earlier years, the store was open seven days a week. But when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers arrived, Sunday business plummeted because men were watching football, and women couldn't get them to shop for baby furniture, Keefe said.

For years, about 30 percent of his business came from Tampa, but then competitors arrived in Tampa so customers had no reason to drive to Pinellas Park.

"When stocks were going up, people were not worried about going in and buying a $500 crib. The economy has changed a lot," he said.

Some of Juvenile Junction's current customers are the grown-up babies whose parents first bought there.

"I have such wonderful customers. We are in a nice business. There are many happy people. They are not grouchy," said Keefe.

He talks about how likable his workers are, spending hours answering questions, not knowing whether a sale will result. Often expectant parents visit numerous times before they purchase anything.

Juvenile Junction sells many lines of furniture.

"It's all solid wood, no particle board," he said. Styles vary also. He has bunk beds made from two singles, bunk beds made from two doubles and one that has a double bed on the bottom and a single on top.

Keefe's daughter Ginger Sheridan has been working with him for 35 years. Many of the workers have put in years also.

A sale began Thursday, drawing crowds. Door prizes will be offered. More furniture is stored in a nearby warehouse and will be brought to the store as space permits.

[Last modified January 15, 2006, 01:47:20]

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