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By Carmen Ensinger
After only one year in business, Billy’s Furniture Clearance Center in White Hall is closing after losing its lease on what was the former ALCO building. The building sat empty for the better part of almost seven years before Billy McCurley and his chain of furniture stores decided to take a chance and open a store in what was McCurley’s former hometown.
“We signed a deal for a one-year lease option and what happened is the lease option came up and they said they have had a lot of people interested in the building since we moved in,” McCurley said. “I just kind of blew it off at first and then they came to us and said they had an offer on the building for rent that was three times what we were currently paying.”
McCurley said they didn’t have to leave – they could pay the higher rent, but that would defeat their purpose.
“There is no way we could pay the higher rent and try to remain a clearance center,” McCurley said. “We can’t pay what the big companies are going to be able to pay. It is not that we want to leave, but we have no choice.”
McCurley said out of his seven locations, the White Hall location was the third top store in sales.
“We are very excited about all of the sales we made at this location in just one short year,” McCurley said. “Business was so good that we were really looking forward to our second year. We were drawing people from Grafton, Kampsville, Jacksonville, pretty much anywhere in a 60-mile radius.”
The building is owned by the Carrington Company out of Eureka, Calif. They are a privately held commercial real estate investment and management firm.
Tim Evans has been General Manager of the White Hall location since it opened last December. While the Carrington Company is not releasing the name of the corporation who is wanting to lease the building, White Hall is a small town and word does get around.
“We haven’t officially been told, but we have been hearing from their employees and even some bosses, that Bunn is going to come in and take it over,” Evans said. “But, we haven’t officially been told that is who it is by the guys in California – that is just the word on the street.”
More word on the street is that Bunn intends to put in a manufacturing facility at the location which will provide around 150 jobs. They do have a sign up by their location which said they are hiring, which does lend credibility to the rumors.
Evans said if that is the case – good.
“As long as whoever takes over this place is going to do something that is going to be good for this community, then I’m okay with it,” he said. “If they provide good jobs with good salaries and it is going to be great for the community and the surrounding area then it is a good thing. We can always find another place, though it is not going to be easy.”
But, their loss is the community’s gain, because rather than move all of the merchandise in the roughly 100,000 square foot building, they would rather sell it at deeply discounted prices.
“Right now, we have most things marked down at least 50 percent,” Evans said. “Because it is more cost effective for us to sell it, even if we have to take a loss on some things, as opposed to us having to hire help and get semis to move it to another location. We are better off to just discount the furniture and give back to the community who has given so much to us in the first year that we have been here and offer them some really good deals.”
According to Evans, when they were first notified their lease was not going to be renewed, the owners of the building gave them a very limited time to remove all of their merchandise.
“The rumors that they were not going to renew our lease had been going around for quite some time but officially they didn’t tell us until about a week ago,” Evans said. “They originally wanted us out in 10 days, but in order to play nice in the sand box, they have extended that out and given us until Feb. 14, which gives us a little more time to get rid of some of our bigger inventory.”
The one thing they both want to make clear is that they are not liquidating because the store was a failure.
“We have been really happy with the way things have gone,” Evans said. “It wasn’t that we failed – it was just the investors who own this building can make more money leasing it to someone else. That is what they do – they go around the country and buy these kinds of buildings and lease them out. So, if they have an opportunity to get more money out of it with someone else, more power to them because they have board members and investors to answer to.”
McCurley said they are currently in the process of looking for a new facility to move to.
“We did so well in this area that we would love to be able to remain here,” he said. “We are in the process of looking for another building in this area to possibly relocate to. We are excited by the business we did at this location and we brought a lot of traffic to White Hall from outside the area. Those people probably stopped and ate somewhere or bought gas, so they also helped bring additional income into the community as well.”