The owners of Carrie's Iron Furnishings & Home Décor, at 1737 King Ave. W., said they are running a liquidation sale and retiring, but haven't decided yet whether to close their business.
Confusion resulted from an earlier letter to customers in which owners Bob and Carrie Peterson said they were liquidating more than $1 million in furniture, antiques and accessories and then retiring, but not going out of business.
In a second letter Wednesday, the Petersons clarified their plans by saying it is their "intention to sell or lease the building or sell the business."
Carrie Peterson said she sees the two terms quite differently.
"Going out of business means you aren't making it. Retiring means it's our choice," Peterson said. "We're retiring and selling our inventory, but that doesn't mean we don't have new inventory coming in or inventory on existing order."
Last weekend, two people wearing sandwich boards were advertising Carrie's "liquidation" sale along King Avenue West, and the term is used in local ads.
The distinction matters because businesses that are closing need to buy a going out of business license from the city, which Carrie's hasn't done. In fact, last November, Carrie's owners renewed their annual Billings business license.
City code mandates that companies must buy a license before running advertisements that cause the public to believe that the business will "cease and be discontinued." These phrases include, "going out of business" and "liquidation."
Carrie's ads and mailings are "skirting" city code, said Nancy McCullough, the city's commercial code enforcement officer. "They are saying both things: That they aren't ceasing business, but they are liquidating and retiring."
McCullough said she would send a friendly letter to the Petersons suggesting they buy a going out of business license in the next 10 days.
She said business owners often make wording mistakes when advertising sales.
The Petersons spent about $5 million remodeling the 50,000-square-foot former Knox Lumber store and building an adjoining mini-mall that houses the Copper Creek Casino and Cellular Wholesale, Bob Peterson's cell phone business. The Petersons traveled to Mexico several times a year to buy furniture and accessories.
After nine years of running Carrie's, which was originally located on Grand Avenue, Carrie said she and her husband are moving on.
"We want to spend more time with our kids and doing things that people don't get to do when they're working seven days a week," she said.
Contact Jan Falstad at firstname.lastname@example.org or 657-1306.