RUTHERFORD, N.J.– Dee-J's Western Corral owner Dee Franich is hanging up her boots after nearly four decades on Rutherford's Park Avenue.
"The business isn't the same," Franich said. "There are too many restaurants and not enough parking."
Franich opened the store with her husband, Murray, a country singer and pet supply salesman.
He performed locally at Rainbow's End in Wood-Ridge, Palomino Club in Wallington and Whiskey Cafe in Lyndhurst under the moniker "Big Slim the Country Gentleman."
Franich traveled with him to gigs at out of state venues but didn't join him on stage.
"I couldn't hold a note," she said.
The couple would end up selling clothing boots, hats, belts and buckles and more – to other country musicians, including Emmy Lou Harris and Tammy Wynette, Franich said.
But for eight years in the same location, the couple ran a pet store until Murray's asthma prompted a change.
"We always loved country so we took a chance on western apparel," said Dee, who previously worked for a company that made television tubes.
Murray died 13 years ago but Dee carried on with the help of their son, Ron, who puts in time when he's not at his full-time gig at Stop & Shop in Clifton.
Ron would ride the mechanical horse, Tony the Pony, that was used to reside in front of the store.
It was a popular hang-out spot for years, the owner said.
"There would be seven guys there on a Saturday," she said. "We'd cook hot dogs and beans.
"It used to be a good place to hang out."
Once she finally retires, Franich plans on relaxing and spending time with her family.
"I'm mostly going to stay at home," she said.
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