O'Toole's Garden Center in Littleton welcomed residents and local patrons to its final car show Aug. 16, just weeks before the longstanding store is set to close at the end of the month.
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The event, part of Littleton's Western Welcome Week celebration, drew more than two dozen vintage cars — some nearly a century old — as well as a host of community members who both lamented the O'Toole's closure and cherished its memories as a beacon of community.
Store owner Adele O'Toole announced in late March that she was selling the site to Lennar Multifamily Communities — a North Carolina-based developer — which plans to build 359 apartment homes along with new commercial space in the area.
"I'm devastated. I'm devastated," said Jody Pauly, who lives off West Berry Avenue, a roughly 10-minute walk from the store.
Pauly said she's been going to O'Toole's for at least 20 years and said the store had an unmatched "homey" feel to it.
"Not like you're being rushed at the big stores," Pauly said, adding that she's hopeful O'Toole's will find a new location to reopen.
Dan Mullin, who displayed his 1949 Ford during the event, said he's featured the car at several metro-area shows over the past five years.
"(O'Toole's) is by far my favorite," Mullin said. "This is a pretty small local deal. They do a great job here."
Mullin, who is also a Littleton resident and frequent patron at O'Toole's, said the closure "is going to be a big loss" for the city.
"You come in here to shop and you can ask any of their employees questions and they're so good about giving you advice," he said. "It really is a neighborhood center and that's how they treat you."
The garden store currently has two other locations in Lakewood and Westminster. But the Littleton shop, located at West Belleview Avenue and South Federal Boulevard, is its longest standing, operating for more than 30 years.
O'Toole said she had fended off buyers in the past, but with Lennar's plans to use much of the parking area that had been used by the garden center, O'Toole said she did not see a viable path to keeping the store, noting that a May weekend could feature 9,000 customers.
As the store readies for its curtain call, shelves are becoming thinner and the shop has marked down all of its products by 50%.
Chris Ibsen, the store's longtime manager, said he was feeling "very grateful" that so many community members decided to come to the final car show, which occurred following several hours of rain.
Though those dark clouds seemed to bear the weight of the center's final event, it did little to keep residents away.
"Take a look at all these people, coming out on a rainy day," Ibsen said. "This is where people see their neighbors that they haven't seen in a while, or friends, old friends. It's important for the community to have something like this."
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