Business booming into bigger digs

Posted: Thursday, February 17, 2005


  Benjamin Jackinsky, right, and James Smith carry boxes of books from Already Read Book Store in Kenai last fall during a move to a larger building. Several businesses have expanded or moved into larger facilities during the past year. Clarion file photo by M. Scott M

Benjamin Jackinsky, right, and James Smith carry boxes of books from Already Read Book Store in Kenai last fall during a move to a larger building. Several businesses have expanded or moved into larger facilities during the past year.

Clarion file photo by M. Scott M

As the population of the Kenai Peninsula grows, so, too, does the customer base of several peninsula businesses. As such, several familiar business have expanded existing facilities, renovated antiquated facilities to give them a modern look or opened new branches in different locations.

Trustworthy Hardware near the Peninsula Center Mall in Soldotna is one example. Not only had a Sterling Highway expansion project annexed the loading facility in the back of the store, but, due to customer growth over the last several years, demand was more than could be supplied due to the size limitations of the small store building.

"The size of the store had limited our stock and sales for quite a while. We had to make a decision. So, with our business healthy and thriving, we took a jump," said Scott Miller, a manager at Trustworthy Hardware.

The jump is a move from the 6,800-square-foot store they currently lease to the newly constructed 20,000-square-foot store on the corner of the Sterling Highway and Kobuk Street.

The new store also will offer 68 parking spots, as opposed to 10 at the old store, and allow for tremendous growth of individual departments within the store.

"We're not trying to get into new lines of products, we just want to complete the lines we currently have by offering a better selection," Miller said.

"We will be tripling our fishing section, expanding the plumbing section by 70 percent, and we'll also be beefing up the paint section," he said.

Purchasing property and constructing of a new facility required a substantial financial investment from the business owners of Trustworthy Hardware, but Miller said he thought it was a sound investment.

"We're looking at a cost of around $2.5 million when everything is said and done, but we're looking to the future. Owning this new store will not only fortify our business, but will also keep income in state, as opposed to going out of state like it did with leasing," Miller said.

The grand opening for the new store in scheduled for mid-April, according to Miller.

"We wanted to open early enough to give the locals a chance to check it out and shop a little before the summer rush of June and July," he said.

Like Trustworthy Hardware, Three Bears in Kenai significantly expanded its facilities in 2004, though it didn't build a new building to do so.

"We've added 16,000 square feet to the 32,000 we had, so we now have 48,000 square feet total," said Dave Weisz, senior vice president for the store.

Weisz said the expansion should help an already strong business flourish even more.

"The expansion will allow us to sell more products — we've already added 2,500 to 3,000 new products," he said.

"It also will give us more holding power which allows us to buy bigger quantities of products for better prices. We've already been able to take 200 items down by 20 percent," he said.

Weisz said low gross and high volume is how he tries to operate the store.

"That way we can pass savings right back on to the customer," he said.

Weisz said the expansion cost just over $1.5 million for construction and $650,000 for new inventory and equipment.

In addition to the expansion, Three Bears also will add a few new features in 2005.

"We listened to what customers requested," Weisz said.

The store will add a pharmacy, as well as a prepared foods section with items such as roasted chickens and ready-to-eat salads. The new sections should be implemented by July, according to Weisz.

"We'll do what we can to accommodate the local community," he said.

Fred Meyer in Soldotna also will undergo an expansion in 2005.

"It's part of major remolding to keep up with wear and tear of all Fred Meyer stores in the chain," said Mary Lofton, a spokesperson for the chain.

She said all departments will get a face-lift, but the outdoor garden center will be the focus of growth.

"We will add 6,208 square feet to the outdoor garden center," she said.

Lofton expected the remolding project to cost between $10 and $12 million.

"Construction will begin in summer, and we're set to open the new section toward the end of the year," she said.

KeyBank recently saw the opening of a new branch on the Sterling Highway and Birch Street in Soldotna.

"A lot of business owners in Soldotna that banked with KeyBank were tired of going into Kenai. So, we listened to their requests and needs and carefully selected a location and were fortunate to open a new branch," said Julie Allison, vice president and small business team leader for the district of Alaska.

Allison said customers are happy with the new branch and KeyBank is happy with the new business.

"It was the right move from day one. The majority of business at the Soldotna branch has been Soldotna clients that hadn't banked with us prior," she said.

Allison said the Kenai branch of KeyBank has seen no reduction in loans, deposit accounts or client traffic.

Sweeney's Clothing in Soldotna also is undergoing expansion.

"We're adding 2,400 square feet," said owner Mike Sweeney.

The addition will bring the store up to 12,000 square feet, which Sweeney said he's eager to utilize.

"We're in a growing area and we need more space to sell our merchandise. We have a lot of goods in the warehouse and we want to display everything. This will help us spread out," Sweeney said.

After breakup, the parking lot will be repaved.

"It should be done by late spring. It's going to be nice," he said.

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