JONESBORO – Highland Drive and Caraway Road retail is coming back to life. But it took longer than expected.
Indeed, Ted Herget, owner of the new Gearhead Outfitters, which opened a few days ago, had thought it would open in April. Renovations to the old Sears building are still not complete, and everything Herget plans to have in its 16,000 square foot store has yet to arrive, but most of its clothing inventory has been available for years. month.
It is the largest retail outlet for the Jonesboro-based chain of stores and is spread across four states.
“We’re going to test the waters on a new concept,” Herget said of the store. “Our brands are excited.”
The Main Street Gearhead will remain open, he said.
Part of the plan for the new store is to bring back some of the old retail tricks from the past.
“We are not in the coffee business, but we will have a cafe here,” Herget said. “A candy store will hopefully be opened. We’re going to roast nuts and things. It sort of dates back to retail in the 1950s. I want this store to recreate what our parents and grandparents went through.
The new Gearhead location replaces a store that was destroyed on March 28, 2020, when a tornado hit the Turtle Creek Mall. Herget joined Chris Gamble, who also lost a store in the mall, to purchase the 82,000 square foot Sears building.
The Buckle, another former tenant of the mall, is also set to open soon. Due to supply chain issues, Gamble Home likely won’t open until mid-February, Herget said.
As proud as he is of his new store, Herget speaks just as proudly of his parking lot, which is also still under construction.
“A, it’s prettier, when you pass by and you see the trees and the landscape,” Herget said. “And it stops flooding, it’s such a hot topic in Jonesboro.” They don’t understand why. But look around you. Look at all the car parks. All these parking lots are so big. Where does the water go? He goes to your neighbor.
Because the store’s property is in a relatively low location, Herget said he gets excited when it rains so he can watch the upgrades work. When completed, about 2 acres of concrete will have been removed from the store site, he said.
Herget said he and Gamble learned about landscaping established properties in other towns where they have stores, particularly in northwest Arkansas.
Last year’s tornado occurred around the same time the retail world was in freefall due to the coronavirus pandemic. And that was just a few months after Ted and Amanda Herget bought 13 stores in Tennessee, Illinois and Wisconsin.
“We went from 300 employees to 25,” Herget said of stopping the pandemic. “I think I worked some 360 days last year and I didn’t think there was a way out of it. “
Herget said the federal paycheck protection (P3) program literally saved the business. While the company only has about half as many employees as before and fewer stores, Herget said everyone has learned to work smarter.
Six stores in the Chicago area were closed after the leases expired.
In recent months, Gearhead has opened stores in St. Louis and Columbia, Missouri.
After all the tweaks, Herget said things were looking up for Gearhead.
“We’re coming out of what will be our strongest year, which blows my mind,” Herget said.
Although his active living chain of stores has many online customers, Herget insists that the key to success lies in physical stores.
“But you have to give people a reason to come,” Herget said. “And for me, there’s no camaraderie sitting around a computer ordering stuff.”
He noted that the savings that online shoppers have been able to achieve in the past are slowly disappearing with the increase in the cost of bringing these products home.
“And my thing is if you support the schools, if you support your police, your fire department, the city parks and all the programs your kids do, spend your money in the city where you live,” he said. declared Herget. “It’s so simple.”
Even if you shop at a national chain store in your community, you still shop locally, Herget said.