Family member reflects on closing business

By Jim Bob Key

For many years, I soloed Ernest Charles’ piece, “When I Have Sung My Song I’ll Sing No More.” How true that statement rings for me as our family ends a near century of furniture, gifts, family, friends, and tradition as Choate’s Inc.

On Jan. 2, 1942, my father-in-law, L.J. Choate, opened Choate’s as a retail furniture store on the corner of North Street and College Avenue where the parking lot of Neebo stands today. His vision became our family’s mantra, and over the years expanded to include the largest collection of home interiors from the finest manufacturers. An extensive gift department and bridal and baby registry became of the trademarks of Choate’s; brides and mothers have made lifelong decisions that have passed generations of Natchitoches families and are now embedded seamlessly in tradition across the world.

Betty and I assumed the family tradition in 1970 when we moved the business to its current location on Highway 1 South, now South Drive. Our daughter, Pam, and now her son, Andrew, assumed the major part of the day-to-day operations following Betty’s death in 2008. Their vision transitioned Choate’s to reflect the choices of today’s young families. Also, I cannot forget Jimmy DeBlieux and Jane Johnson who both gave a significant part of their lives to the success of our business.

It has never been our desire to end this tradition. The long-term overhaul of South Drive did not position us to succeed. The proposed construction timeline was 12 months; it ultimately took 30 months to complete the job. We had no choice but to live through it. Though the roads look much better and are now better traveled, we were left without a navigable parking lot (a circle drive in the front), making it nearly impossible for our customers to patronize the store. We even struggle with deliveries.

We are indebted to our Natchitoches family, not to mention our families in the surrounding areas. You welcomed us into your homes, included us in your family celebrations, and you trusted us to make a home YOUR home. That feeling of accomplishment will travel with our family forever. Mr. and Mrs. Choate, Betty, Pam, Andrew and I thank you for that wonderful opportunity.

“…We’ve worked so hard to hold our dreams, just you and I. I could not share them again…”

I have sung my song, and I’ll sing no more.

6 thoughts on “Family member reflects on closing business

  1. The passing of a truly wonderful business that brought beauty and elegance to so many homes, and joy to the recipients of gifts for weddings, anniversaries, birthdays, and so on. We still have Choate furniture that we use daily, and after 40 years it is as beautiful as the day we bought it.

    But the Key family has also brought beauty to the lives of thousands of men and women through its support of the arts, especially music. Opening their own home for numerous fundraising events and soirees characterized by the elegance that the Keys maintained always brought a sense of community for people of all ages. Many were the times that some of the greatest of music making occurred in the living room at Jim Bob’s and Betty’s lovely home. I can only hope that that will continue,

    Thank you, Jim Bob, and thanks in memory of Betty, and also to your wonderful extended family, Friends like all of you have been to so many are not easily found, and we are honored by that friendship. Ed and Lois Rath

  2. Choates was always a treat to visit, maybe just to visit with Jim Bob and Betty. We still use and enjoy the lovely sofa and chairs we purchased there back in 1975. These items serve as fond reminders of our years in Natchitoches. Thanks you, Jim Bob for all those years of service to the community.

  3. Choate’s is a big part of the history of Natchitoches…. I am saddened to see the closing of its doors… I am saddened to see the changing of the Riverbank… As often said, change is a good thing… At times, it brings great loss… Your song was well received and its melody will not be forgotten… Thanks for your many years of service.

  4. It’s unfortunate that it’s hard to keep family owned businesses going in these days of mega corporations and chains. Said to see Choates fall into the realm that McClung Drug and many other Natchitoches businesses have fallen into through the years. Job well done Jim Bob et al.

  5. My parents bought a white vinyl contemporary sofa with a matching torquoise chair from the original store. It sat in the front window facing College Avenue and was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen.

    Kathy Roberts Johnson

  6. so sad that progress has its drawbacks (the ‘new’ riverbank is another). thank you for the many years of service.

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