After 56 years, Central Florida Office Plus is closing

Published: Thursday, June 19, 2014 at 5:33 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, June 19, 2014 at 5:33 p.m.

Central Florida Office Plus plans to close by the end of next week after 56 years of supplying local businesses and individuals with office supplies, furniture and art supplies.

Competition from big box stores and online retail finally caught up to the family-owned business, the store's owner said.

"We ran out of time and money, and we're getting too old to work," said W.T. Chesnut, 63, who for 15 years has been running the business founded by his father, Bill Chesnut, in 1958.

Chesnut said stores such as Office Depot and Sam's Club started cutting into business around 2000.

"We've had a whole bunch of loyal and dedicated customers. That's what kept us going," he said. "As prices have fluctuated, we've lost some of our businesses that are more price-conscious than anything else. That's just got it to where we just couldn't keep going."

Chesnut said the decision was made a couple weeks ago by himself, his father, his wife, Mary, "and our friendly accounting staff." They started telling customers on Tuesday and plan to close June 28. The store is offering a 10 percent discount on merchandise.

In addition to offering office supplies, Central Florida is a franchise of Office Furniture USA, and it gradually expanded its art supplies to occupy half its retail space to serve graphic art students at the University of Florida and Santa Fe College.

Bill Chesnut worked for his uncle, Gibbes Chesnut, at Chesnut's Office Supplies for 12 years before starting what was then Central Florida Office Supply in 1958. When Chesnut's closed after 60 years in business in 1995, Central Florida bought its location at 105 SW 34th St. in the Westgate Shopping Center and operated two locations for about a decade. The family also owned an Office Furniture USA franchise in Ocala in the early 2000s.

Bill Chesnut started the business by delivering office supplies and furniture from a 500-square-foot building behind his house. He would move to showrooms on Hawthorne Road and on Southwest Second Avenue downtown before moving to the current location at 10 NW Sixth St. in 1981.

The company employed as many as 67 people in the mid-1990s. That number has dwindled to 25, W.T. Chesnut said. Of those, about half have been with the store for 20 or more years. Numerous family members have also worked in the store.

"Our family will miss the business, and we sure hope that Gainesville misses what we've been able to do for the community over the last number of years," he said.

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