'COVID really ruined us': Litchfield County Pickers to close

Photo of Sandra Diamond Fox
Dawn and Mert Larmore are closing Litchfield County Pickers in New Milford in February.

Dawn and Mert Larmore are closing Litchfield County Pickers in New Milford in February.

File photo

NEW MILFORD — After a decade in business, Litchfield County Pickers will close next month. The closing is a result of the coronavirus pandemic, according to owner Mert Larmore.

Up until the pandemic began, the estate sale and consignment business, at 493 Danbury Road, was doing great, said Larmore, 59, who owns the business with his wife, Dawn.

“Every year, we were growing leaps and bounds,” he said.

The business moved four times since it opened, and with each move, “we were getting bigger and better and more stuff and higher quality,” he said.

The first location was 1,000 square feet, the next 1,500, then 3,000, and now the business is in a 17,000-square-foot space.

“Each time we moved, we got better locations, better buildings, better displays,” Larmore said.

He added he had high hopes for the business. “This was going to be our bumper year. We were really going to be over the top,” he added. “Unfortunately, the COVID really ruined us.”

Litchfield County Pickers typically purchases and then sells everything that’s in a home after the owner has died, moved to an assisted living facility or relocated out of state.

“We would go clean the house out, do a consignment deal with the homeowners, and then sell their stuff for them,” Larmore said. “Some places you’ll pick up a few items and some places you’ll pick up four or five truckloads of stuff.”

Litchfield County Pickers has 40 to 50 houses worth of merchandise in its building — everything from pots and pans to high-end artwork and crystal and jewelry. The business also carries collectibles such as bronze figurines and Swarovski crystal, which has sold for several thousand dollars.

Prior to the pandemic, Larmore was picking up items from one or two houses a week — and selling them well.

“We would get 1,000 people a week through here. Whether it was a dealer, a collector or a grandmother trying to raise her kids needing a microwave, we had the whole realm of people,” he said. “The support was just great.”

Then COVID hit.

“Other than the first couple of months when people got their first stimulus check, we’ve been underwater every month since the pandemic — November, December were our worst months ever,” Larmore said.

With the “uncertainty” brought by the pandemic, people are no longer interested in buying non-essential items and are just focused on necessities, said Larmore, adding Litchfield County Pickers is now running at 20 to 25 percent of what it has in previous years.

He said restrictions on large holiday gatherings also negatively impacted his business.

“That really put a damper on us,” he said. “The furniture and cars and all the big stuff that we typically get — just isn’t selling.”

He said people who are downsizing and moving in with their parents, the need for a lot of the items he sells “just isn’t there.”

Additionally, he said when students go back to college in the fall, they usually shop at his business for their dorm items.

“That didn’t happen this year,” he said.

Prior to deciding to close, the couple considered moving into a smaller building, but then decided they still wouldn’t be able to stay afloat.

“Even with the amount of stuff we have out now, we’re not making enough to even carry a smaller building. We can’t keep our head above water. This has been the worst year since we’ve ever started,” he said.

All merchandise in the store is 50 percent to 75 percent off regular prices, including displays and shelving. “We are trying to liquidate as much as possible,” Larmore said.

He predicts it will be a year or more before the economy returns to pre-pandemic conditions, and he said he can’t afford to put items in storage in the meantime.

After he closes, Larmore said he will have more time to do some outdoor activities he enjoys, such as fishing and hunting, and boating.

“I would like to thank everybody for their support for over the last 10 years. We have steady customers that come in, and without them, we wouldn’t have been successful,” Larmore said. “It’s been a great run.”

sfox@milfordmirror.com