Shop that touted Selena and Beyonce as customers closing

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- After 104 years in business, the iconic Southern Importers store is closing its doors.

The store said on its website that "It's time to retire," and customers are welcome to shop there until it closes on June 29. Southern Importers is holding an everything-must-go sale.

The company is known for selling everything from display and theatrical supplies to seasonal decorations. Southern Importers opened in 1915 on Fannin Street before making a stop on Louisiana in the mid-1950s. It moved to its current location at 4825 San Jacinto in the 1960s.

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Frankel's will be closing up shop for good in December.

Owner Mickey Frost inherited the business from his parents, who bought it from his uncle back in 1915 when Woodrow Wilson was president and a loaf of bread was just seven cents.

Frost explained it was difficult to keep the business open with dwindling returns.

"Property taxes have grown and grown and grown. So, while profits have gone down, taxes have gone up. That's the way it is and that's the way it's been for so much retail," the 78-year-old said. "The bottom line is that it'S time has come. I'm at an age now where I really need to slow down. Whether I feel like it or not, my doctors say you sorta do."

Southern Importers has always been different than other retailers. For example, every one of the workers has been there for at least 20 years.

Helen Meredith has worked at the spot for 46 years.

According to Meredith, stars like ZZ Top's Billy Gibbons, Jay Leno and Joan Rivers have dropped by. She made costumes for Beyonce and Destiny's Child, and she even shared secrets with Selena, the "Queen of Tejano."

"She told us not to tell anybody that she was going to be on the rodeo," Meredith recalled about the singer's star-turning performance back in 1995. "'Don't tell anybody because if it gets out before its supposed to, my dad's going to kill me.'"

She insisted she kept the secret until she told us. (We believe her.)

Of Beyonce, Frost remembered when she and her Destiny's Child mates were on the rise.

"She was just with this little group, Destiny's Child," he remembered. "They left their CD here. I thought, 'What am I going to with the CD?'"

Some of the merchandise at Southern Importers probably should have been taken down years ago. But if you were looking for something really specific, this was the place to look.

"Occasionally, we'll get a call or an inquiry, 'Do you by chance have Donald Rumsfeld (mask)? For heaven sakes, who would have it? We do! He's up there on the top shelf," Frost said.

Unfortunately, Houstonians have had to say goodbye to a growing number of businesses within the last six months.

Just last month, Pass & Provisions, one of the city's most-acclaimed restaurants, closed after service on May 25.

Earlier this year, Canino Produce in the Heights shut its doors after 60 years in business.

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