The owners of a hardware store on Madison's far west side said crime in the area is forcing them to close the store.
Owners of Ace Hardware at the Meadowood Shopping Center off Raymond Road and Whitney Way said they're closing because customers are feeling unsafe.
Staff members at Ace Hardware have posted close-out prices and preparing to clear out the entire store after 25 years.
"We were doing what we could. We can't anymore," said Dennis Lochner, Ace Hardware co-owner.
"There's been hugs and tears, because we've gotten to know (the customers)," said Sharon Lochner, Ace Hardware co-owner.
But the Lochners said too many customers have stopped shopping at the store, and now they can't keep the business going.
"They don't want to come to the shopping center anymore for fear of the neighborhood, and that's what's killing our business," Dennis Lochner said.
In one recent incident, a stray bullet hit a car's passenger's side visor on Raymond Road. The Lochners said that driver was headed to their store.
"I genuinely believe that the mayor and others in the neighborhood are going to work hard to make it a strong, healthy neighborhood again, but that's not going to happen overnight. It's not fast enough," Dennis Lochner said.
Best Cleaners will be one of the last stores still operating in the strip mall. Owner John Whitley said he has heard customer concerns but said the shopping center is safe.
"The perception, I think, is overblown," Whitley said. "Business decisions are made. That's what business people do."
Lisa Veldran, president of the Meadowood Neighborhood Association, doesn't want to see Ace Hardware go, but she said her neighborhood is not to blame.
"People want to make it a Meadowood issue, and it is just part of a larger issue," Veldran said. "Crime is a problem not only in Meadowood but across the city."
But for the Lochners, if customers think they're not safe to walk through the front doors, they said there's no choice but to close them for good.
"Unfortunately there is reality to go with the perception," Dennis Lochner said.
Veldran said she tried to work with Ace Hardware on new ways to reach out to the people living around here. She said she was frustrated to hear that the owners seemed to put the decision to close entirely on the neighborhood.
The Lochners said the property manager did everything he could to keep them there, but once profits dropped below a certain level they were able to get out of the lease.