YUCCA VALLEY — In 1979, a local entrepreneur named his furniture store after his young daughter. Kelly’s Future has thrived, and now, four decades later, owner Steve Tharp will close his shop’s doors at the end of this month.
“I have mixed emotions about it,” he said of retirement. “I’ve been doing it for the last 40 years.”
People have been sharing stories of Kelly’s Future with Tharp in the past few weeks as they visit the shop for one last time.
“People say, ‘Our house is full of your furniture,’” he said. “It’s been gratifying how many people hold Kelly’s Future in such high regard.”
The final day of business will be May 25. In anticipation, Tharp has been offering deep discounts on his stock. He said it has been a joy watching people walk away with items they may not have had the budget for without the retirement sale.
“I feel a little bit like Santa Claus,” he said, smiling. “It feels good.”
On Thursday, mother and daughter duo Robin and Kathy Clewell stopped by Kelly’s Future shopping for deals.
They weren’t alone. By May 1, the news of the closing sale was out and the store was packed. The Tharps even sold out of mattresses in stock and ordered another shipment.
In the last week of May, Tharp will liquidate all of his office supplies.
The choice to sell the business or close for retirement came down to one simple thing for him.
“I didn’t want someone having my daughter’s name on the business,” he said. “We’d rather just liquidate the inventory and retire.”
The last few weeks have been a whirlwind for Tharp and his wife and business co-owner, Janice.
“So many people have come into the store to tell Steve they are going to miss him,” Janice said. “He’s been an icon in the desert.”
Future business beginnings
In 1979, Tharp got out of the Marines after nine years as an electronics instructor and opened up his business in Twentynine Palms. His daughter Kelly had been born five years earlier and he had found himself a single father looking forward to a future.
“Being a single dad in the Marine Corps won’t work,” he concluded.
He opened Kelly’s Future in Twentynine Palms and moved it to Yucca Valley in 1988.
Retirement dreams with family
Steve, who turns 68 in August, said retirement will give him time to spend with family, especially those living far away. Steve’s mother is 92 years old and lives in Louisville, Kentucky, where he was raised before joining the military at 19. Recently, she has faced illnesses and a broken hip and he wants to be able to help if she needs him.
“She’s tough as nails and I hope to have her genetics,” he said.
He also just wants to enjoy retirement with Janice and his family.
“It’s felt really good once we announced we were going to retire,” he said.
Janice retired from Riverside County Superior Courts in 2016. Married since 2004, they live in Morongo Valley.
Together, the two share three adult children and five grandchildren. Kelly now lives in Northern California. The Tharps lost a grandson, Kelly’s youngest, to cancer. Sawyer Orion Rummelhart, 9, died on Feb. 19, 2016, after a 10-month battle with Burkitt’s lymphoma.
A heart for
Embracing the community has been one of the hallmarks for the Tharp family. They have been active in community events for decades, including Grubstakes Days.
In 2014, Kelly’s Future donated $12,000 worth of furniture to a disabled Navy veteran and his family.
Now that they’re retired, Steve and Janice Tharp look forward to being able to take long trips in the RV and on their Harley-Davidsons.
“I’ve been looking forward to spending this time together,” said Janice.