Even though he’s shuttering Wilton Sport Shop, owner Ken Cyr wants you to know he’ll still be around to supply Wilton athletes and teams with spirit wear and custom printed apparel.

“We’re still planning on providing as much as we can to organizations, teams and individuals, which we do a lot of. People come in and say, ‘I need a t-shirt, sweatshirt, printed with this, name on the back. We hope to continue with as much of that business as we can,” he tells GOOD Morning Wilton.

Cyr sits inside the back office of the store, which will be closed until this Thursday, Feb. 7, as Cyr and his staff ready the shop for liquidation. Big neon signs posted on the front of the building announce that after 44 years, the store is closing its doors–but will hold one final, shelf-clearing sale. He’s wistful, but pragmatic about the decision to close.

“Forty-four years is a good length of time. My family, when I finally decided with them, said, ‘What took you so long,'” he chuckles. “My oldest son, who is 34, said, ‘Dad, this is like giving up your first child.’ Because it was 10 years before him.”

The reality of how difficult retail business is factored into Cyr’s decision to close too, of course. Liquidating his remaining stock will be more profitable than any lukewarm offers he might have gotten to buy the business outright.

“It’s just getting harder and harder to get people in the shop. I think we still have a pretty good mix of merchandise, but it’s harder and harder to sell it. The part of the business that seems to be working well these days, the print business, is the way to continue,” he explains.

That’s where HometownSpiritwear.com will come into play. Cyr’s new website will allow customers to still place orders  for all things customized and printed. And he’ll try to keep a personal, face-to-face interaction when possible.

“I’ll try to get together with folks here in town–whatever works.” He’s hoping to partner with another local business to be a distribution point, where he can leave items for customers to pick up locally; he may also consider delivering items direct to customers’ homes.

While there won’t be sports gear or equipment on Cyr’s new website, he will try to help athletes and shoppers when he can, say for special order items, like sport socks.

“A lot of the vendors we deal with for that type of thing are vendors that deal with print houses and team dealers, so if that was a need, we’d certainly try to fill that too.”

The in-person rapport that Cyr and his staff offered will be missed by customers. They remembered details about orders that customers placed without having to check, and kept tabs on teams that families’ children played for. Generations of high school students scored their first jobs at Wilton Sport Shop–some even following in their parents’ footsteps of working behind that counter when they were WHS students.

That’s what Cyr says he’ll miss the most. “The people, the contact and the friends I’ve made along the way over the year. Hopefully a lot of those we can continue doing some business with and see from time to time. And the staff. And the students who worked here–that helped keep me thinking young, having young kids around.”

Cyr is prepared to stay through mid-March, and the sale will extend until everything in the store is gone. Items will be priced for the sale and there will be opportunities to win prizes too. But while there might be savings and prizes, it is a loss everyone will feel.