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Citizen's View: 'We have tried to be a positive influence in our community'

We are retiring at the end of May, along with Graham’s Book & Stationery. We and the store are doing well. There are those who say doing business in Lake Oswego is challenging, difficult or plagued by obstacles. We say retiring from a 57-year-old business after 40 years is the ultimate challenge.

Lake Oswego has been an excellent place in which to have grown up, raised our family, been enriched by our schools and made lifelong friends. We sincerely thank all of you who have supported the success of our family business for more than five decades. Wally and Norma Graham would never have believed that what they began in 1957 is still serving our community today.

So many of our customers tell us we are unique. They rely on us for our experienced staff, choices, convenience, items they can’t find elsewhere, being able to buy one of an item, special ordering, quality products, affordable prices, amazing greeting cards, hosting great community events, a place for friends to meet and so much more. At back-to-school time, we sometimes see young students accompanied by grandparents who proudly exclaim that Graham’s is where they came for their own school supplies years ago.

Some customers have admonished us to “never retire.” Talk about pressure! Perhaps this is the reason it has taken us 40 years to retire rather than 30. But closing Graham’s is less complicated and time-consuming than selling it. We’re healthy, ready and looking forward to our next chapter.

We think the business climate is good in Lake Oswego — our store continues to do well, sales are up and a large number of Lake Oswegans support local businesses. We are optimistic about leasing the Graham’s space to a business that will add vitality to Second Street and the downtown area. There’s an opportunity for another entrepreneur to open in LO with merchandise similar to what we offered at Graham’s.

Our business philosophy has always been something like this: If you do business in the community, you need to be a part of the community. If you don’t live here, then move here if possible. Join the Chamber of Commerce. Don’t ask what you get; ask what you can do to help the chamber and other businesses be more successful.

Embrace people who ask you for donations, because they are also working to make the community a better place. Collaborate on a community project. Get to know your local business neighbors. Refer your customers to other local businesses. Shop and dine in LO often.

Don’t measure everything by your dollar return. Think about the greater good of the community: school results, outdoor sculptures, flower baskets, blooming medians, our parks, LO Reads, Hop at the Hunt, the Lake Run, the Festival of the Arts, Lakewood Theater, the work of our service organizations, the state of our city, etc. We have tried to be a positive influence in our community.

Malls, big-box stores, strip centers and the Internet work hard to draw LO residents away from our business core. In response, our downtown must also continue to grow its goods and services, adding new local businesses and nearby housing. In our 57 years, the downtown business core has never looked as good or offered as much as it does now. It seems to grow through heated debates, but continues to improve. We’re a better city for the changes.

As residents and stakeholders, we look forward to collaborating on our future growth.

And once again, thank you!

Paul and Teri Graham are longtime Lake Oswego residents and the owners of Graham’s Book & Stationery. The shop, which has been located in Lake Oswego since 1957, will close its doors May 31.

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