The Etc. Shop to close on Saturday after 43 years in downtown; estate sale to happen next month

photo by: Chad Lawhorn/Journal-World

Owner and founder Linda Lester is pictured inside her boutique, The Etc. Shop, on Sept. 21, 2023, days before she closes the downtown store after 43 years in business.

With the end now near for The Etc. Shop, it should be no surprise that the owner of a boutique for the miscellany of life has her thoughts turn to the 1980s bleachers of Lawrence High football.

The Etc. Shop, 928 Massachusetts St., got started in 1980 when LHS football was less a game and more a cloud of civic pride that descended each Friday night upon the city. Shop owner and founder Linda Lester had two sons who were immersed in the Chesty Lion culture. So, as a devoted mother, she would march up the bleachers, searching for a seat.

She would find much more.

“I made friends,” Linda said this week.

And then, she found customers — row by row.

“And I still have them today,” she said.

Over the last two weeks, they have been filing into the shop to browse and buy one last time from their friend. The Etc. Shop is closing on Saturday, and then an estate sale will happen at the shop Oct. 4-8. The decision was made just a little more than two weeks ago, and for unhappy reasons.

Linda, a survivor of breast cancer more than a decade ago, has been diagnosed with lung cancer. As she said, she’s had all the radiation she can have, and not all battles with cancer are won by the correct combatant.

“It is spreading, and I’m taking care of business,” she said.

photo by: Chad Lawhorn/Journal-World

The Etc. Shop, 928 Massachusetts St., is pictured in September 2023.


Give the Chesty Lions only so much credit for The Etc. Shop. The idea of a boutique was not born on the gridiron. Linda was raised in Wichita by an aunt and an uncle, the latter of whom taught her how to solder metal, among other skills.

She used her soldering iron to make jewelry, and always has enjoyed the adornments. She had acquired a cache of antique jewelry years before she opened The Etc. Shop and had thought how nice it would be to have a shop to sell it from.

Today, oh yes, there is jewelry. The rings, the necklaces, the bracelets, the earrings, even the hair clips to add a touch of bling to an updo. But there’s more. There are belts, shoes, purses and the unexpected: a midcentury cheese slicer, which you shouldn’t bother to look for anymore, unless you end up on my patio for cheese and cocktails.

And then, there are the boxes. The Etc. Shop has always been good for an ornate wooden box, perhaps because Linda is among the retailers who have figured out that a box is a perfect product — you leave with a beautiful box and the hope of what you will put in it.

Boxes also are great reminders that a structure doesn’t have to be large to be important. The Etc. Shop hasn’t always been on Massachusetts Street. It started in a building of about 150 square feet on the west side of the alley behind Weaver’s department store.

Linda saw the building become empty, and learned — whether through bleacher connections or otherwise — that Judge Mike Elwell was managing the property. He told Linda he would rent the building to her, but warned that the city would tear the building down in five years to make way for a parking lot.

“But surely you can get it going or not by then,” Linda recalled Elwell saying.

Two years later, the city tore down the building. Yes, three years early, but parking lots don’t tell time as much as they mark a change of it. So, Linda left but did not forget. Parking spaces — three parking spaces in particular — are still on Linda’s mind, adding to the list of miscellaneous items that emerge as the store winds down. Linda estimates that the city parking lot that exists behind Weaver’s today gained three parking spaces due to the demolition of her shop.

“They should have left that little building for small businesses,” she said.

photo by: Chad Lawhorn/Journal-World

A drawing of the original The Etc. Shop, a 150-square foot space along Ninth Street that has since been demolished, is shown in September 2023.

But they didn’t, and Linda had decided that she and her shop had made it, five years be damned. She set out in search of a new storefront, and instead found a world that rudely confronted 1980s businesswomen.

“So many men would not lease to me because I wouldn’t let my husband sign the lease,” she said. “I was the sole proprietor, and I thought that should be good enough.”

There is a saying about raising children, and success in general, that contends that it takes a village, but it could be argued that the saying gets cut short. Perhaps a village of women is more accurate.

Many of those friends in the bleachers who turned into customers were ladies of Lion football, and women come through the boutique’s door at a greater rate than men. The shop is a woman-powered business, but certainly not the first in downtown Lawrence.

Of all the miscellaneous thoughts that come to Linda as she occupies the shop for the final days, she lingered the longest on Ruby Malott. She owned Malott Hardware at 736 Massachusetts St., and she owned a lot more than that.

Linda recalls how downtown was so different in those days.

“When I started here, there were a lot more just plain old beer joints in downtown Lawrence,” she says.

But there also were “lovely” business owners like Ruby, who would always be on the lookout for ways to improve their business district. She bought some of those beer joint buildings and filled them with businesses that she reasoned would cause fewer problems for the downtown, Linda said.

She did it all as a longtime widow, with her children by her side at the store. One of them was her son Dar, and perhaps he proves that village of women has room for a man who learned at his mother’s side.

“He worked with his mama every day at that hardware store,” Linda said.

Linda would soon learn more about the man he became when she inquired about the building at 732 Massachusetts St., which Ruby owned but Dar managed. Linda thought the space would work fine as the new home for her shop, but she had grown tired of wasting her time.

“I told him, ‘I’m not going to have my husband sign any lease,'” Linda recalled.

Linda feared that might be the end of it, but then Dar surprised her.

“He said ‘Linda, what makes you think I would even have you sign a lease?'” Linda said, remembering that she said something about leases being customary.

Dar disagreed.

“I wouldn’t want a signed lease from you,” he said. “I know you will pay your rent.”


The building at 732 Massachusetts St. made an immediate impression on Linda’s husband, Robert, who in later years served as the shop’s bookkeeper.

“It’s too big. You don’t have that much stuff,” Linda recalled Robert saying.

That may have been true, but Linda told him she had something better than stuff.

“I have an idea,” she said.

It involved building a wall across the storefront space to make it smaller. As the shop got more merchandise, she would move the wall back a little farther.

“I moved it back and I moved it back,” she said.

Eventually, she ended up knocking a hole in one of the side walls of the building because she opened a costume shop, taking over a space “Miss Ruby” had next door.

Linda grew the business with a simple — not easy — strategy.

“You have to open the door and lock it up, and clean the bathrooms too,” she said.

It is the biggest piece of advice she gives to the young women she sees opening shops today. You can have great employees — Linda said she has the best, with one at 23 years with her and another at 28 — but there is no substitute for what you can do as an owner.

“You have to be here every day,” she said. “That is one problem with my lung cancer. I have been very ill.”

So, there is another wall that needs a hole knocked in it. But, of course, some walls are thicker than others, and Linda, 80, is well past the age of needing anyone’s permission to retire.

But still, she does not relish the idea. And, why would she?

“I love my customers,” she said. “I have watched many grow and do all kinds of good things.”

She found the best seat for the biggest game.

photo by: Chad Lawhorn/Journal-World

Founder and owner Linda Lester visits with a customer at her boutique, The Etc. Shop in downtown Lawrence on Sept. 21, 2023.


Welcome to the new Our old commenting system has been replaced with Facebook Comments. There is no longer a separate username and password login step. If you are already signed into Facebook within your browser, you will be able to comment. If you do not have a Facebook account and do not wish to create one, you will not be able to comment on stories.