Big Lots opens new store

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 19, 2004

By SUE ELLEN ROSS – Staff Reporter

LAPLACE – An abandoned building on the corner of Highway 51 and Highway 61 is beginning to take shape, as the first tenant moved in last week.

Big Lots opened its doors June 10, moving from their previous location in the Riverlands Shopping Center. “Dozens of people were waiting for us to open the doors,” said David Logue, store manager. “They were very excited. Traffic was steady all day, and hasn’t let up since.”

The new store is reflective of Big Lots vision into the new century, he added. The corporate office has found that creature comforts – such as wider aisles, brighter lighting and adding a Furniture Department – go a long way in satisfying customers.

Surveys and focus groups conducted throughout the nation have determined that this is what customers want, he added. To accommodate the larger, new store further, Logue said ten more employees were added to the employee list, bringing the grand total to 29 employees at the new location.

Total space of this first store to conduct business in the Riverwood Shopping Center measures in at 30,000 square feet. Of this amount, the storage area covers 10,000 square feet; while the selling floor includes 19,000 square feet.

No items from the old Big Lots store in the Riverlands Shopping Center were transferred. “Everything here, from the fixtures to the inventory, is brand new,” said Logue.

The recent challenge of training new employees, finishing up loose ends at the old store and preparing the new one for business, was met with confidence by Logue and his staff. The new store reflects their pride.

“My daughter just bought a house in LaPlace and I came to buy her a gift,” said customer Mary Kocal of New Orleans. “I know this store hasn’t been open long, but everyone is talking about it, and everything they said is true. It’s fun shopping here!”

Logue has continually received comments such as Kocal’s since he and his staff arrived at their new location. “People love Big Lots as a whole, but their reaction – and praise – to our new store is overwhelming,” he said.

Big Lots sells name brand merchandise at close-out prices, garnering their inventory from the manufacturers themselves. These are factory over-runs, extra shipments, etc., and not second-quality merchandise, according to Logue.

Trucks deliver new inventory to the LaPlace Big Lots store each Monday. Just like all store managers, Logue has no idea what the shipment will include. “Every week is Christmas for us,” he laughed. “We never know what the trucks will bring.”

The new shopping center where Big Lots is located sits on the site of the old K-Mart building on Airline Highway. The $5 million refurbishment will create approximately 100 new jobs. It will cover a total of 87,000 square feet of retail space in nine new stores when completed.

“Riverwood Shopping Center is transforming an under-utilized site into a vibrant and attractive shopping center,” said developer Robert Bruno, of Bruno Brothers Management and Development Company. “It will not only provide more choice for shoppers but will bring jobs to St. John Parish as well.”

Gulf States Real Estate Services, along with APC Realty in LaPlace, is handling the leasing for the development. Aegis Construction is coordinating on-site work.

In addition to Big Lots, those that have signed leases to conduct business in Riverwood Shopping center are: Dollar General; Aaron’s Rents Inc.; Subway; Hibbett Sporting Goods; and China House Super Buffet.

The three remaining spaces should be leased by year’s end, according to Jamie Butts, director of leasing and property management for Gulf States.