Old businesses leaving Delray, leaving room for a new, vibrant atmosphere

DELRAY BEACH, Fla. - At Mercer Wenzel department store, shirts still get hand-wrapped. Customer service still has meaning.

"Joanne said that she can come in and Francis remembers all the little outfits she's bought for her grandchildren," said Anna Diebold, a sales associate at the store on Atlantic Ave. in Delray Beach.

The store is also proof that nothing lasts forever.

After 54 years, Bruce Wenzel's entire family still works in the store.

But he's 85, and is selling the building. The doors - at Atlantic and SE 4th Ave., will close in November.

"It's just a good time for retirement and going off and doing things other than working six days a week," said Chris Wenzel, the founder's daughter.

This is a transitional moment for Atlantic Ave.

Every week seems to bring a new restaurant, an accolade from a travel magazine, or a new, young city dweller.

Today, Delray resident Katie King was sitting in front of the city's newest nightspots with a Starbucks in hand.

But she mourns Mercer Wenzel's loss.

"I myself live in a historic district. My apartment is sixty years old and I can't touch it and I love it that way," said King.

But as the Wenzels hold their last sale - and the deal with an unannounced buyer is finalized - they insist that Delray is only evolving.

"It could be that this next step will be very good for the community. There's a lot of times you don't know what's behind the door," said Wenzel.

But you do know what you're leaving behind.

Diebold showed pictures from when she was nine, of wearing outfits bought at Mercer Wenzel.

"(On) Atlantic Ave., everyone knew one another."

Sources say a clothing store may move in, but no deal is ready to be announced.

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