Sunday, March 03, 2013
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Retail Roundup: Haverty;s at Valley View to close in May

Retail Roundup columns

The Storefront blog

Haverty's furniture store at Valley View in Roanoke will close in May, opening up a large retail space in a high-traffic commercial area that is mostly built out and landlocked.

The 40,000-square-foot store next to Dick's Sporting Goods will close May 20, just before its lease ends, according to Jenny Parker, a spokeswoman for the Atlanta-based company.

"We felt like it was a good time to evaluate where we were," Parker said, adding that the store's profit margin played into the decision to close.

"It just depends on the market and what we see," she said.

Overall, the furniture company is growing.

Haverty's reported its fourth-quarter revenue rose to $182.3 million, a 8.4 percent increase from the same period a year earlier. Comparable store sales increased 6 percent, according to the earnings report.

The company has added two new stores since the fourth quarter of 2011 and has plans to expand its showrooms in some markets.

"We will be adjusting our square footage during 2013, closing stores in certain markets and expanding showrooms in desirable locations," Clarence Smith, the company's president and CEO, said in the report.

The Roanoke showroom is one of three to close this year, Parker said. The others are in Jackson, Miss., and Tampa, Fla.

Haverty's operates 121 showrooms in 17 states in Southern and Midwestern states.

The Valley View store opened in 1998, but it wasn't the company's first foray into the market. Haverty's operated in Roanoke from 1950 to 1978, when it closed its downtown store as part of a corporate strategy to focus on suburban locations. The company returned to Roanoke 20 years later.

The Roanoke showroom is owned by Abmar LLC, which has an Atlanta address, according to Roanoke online real estate records. The ownership group could not be reached, so it remains unclear what will happen with the building.

The Roanoke showroom is owned by Abmar LLC, which is made up of a group of investors, according to Roger Elkin, of Hall Associates, which is handling the leasing of the building.

The building has not been leased, Elkin said. Because of its size, it might be split up to accommodate several tenants, he said. There are very few retailers, he said, that need 40,000 square feet.

Elkin expects to see the building leased quickly, and said there has already been interest.

"Valley View is the absolute retail hub of Western Virginia," he said.

And, it is an area that is mostly developed and landlocked by the Roanoke Regional Airport, Interstate 581 and the surrounding neighborhoods.

"There are very few spaces like this in the market," Elkin said. "It's a really unique property."

For nursing mothers

A homegrown Roanoke-based company that makes cookies to help breast-feeding mothers increase their milk supply is seeing its sales and line of products grow.

Milkin' Cookies was founded in 2010 by two Roanoke doctors, Dr. Lennox McNeary and Dr. Cheri Wiggins. They met while both were breast-feeding, and they began talking about a way to help other working, stressed-out moms increase their milk supply.

The doctors tried several recipes before settling on two types of cookies that use galactagogues, or milk-producing, ingredients, including oats, nutritional yeast, ground flaxseed and wheat germ.

One is a cranberry almond oatmeal cookie. The other is an oatmeal chocolate chip cookie. The doctors recently added a dairy-free cranberry almond oatmeal cookie to their offerings. They also are working on new flavors that they hope to sell soon, McNeary said.

The cookies are baked at Roanoke pizzeria Jimmy Sardines on weekdays before the restaurant opens. After the cookies are baked, they are sent through a packaging machine in the back of the restaurant that individually wraps and seals the cookies. Then they are packaged in boxes and shipped across the country.

The cookies are free of preservatives and don't have a long enough shelf life, so the doctors haven't been able to get big-box and chain grocery stores to carry them. Instead, the cookies can be ordered online and are available at lactation boutiques and through lactation consultants.

Sales of the cookies have taken off since 2010, when the company received 300 orders.

Last year, Milkin Cookies' received 3,000 orders, McNeary said.

The doctors also market their products by attending baby shows and trade shows, and working with doctors, nurses and lactation consultants. But perhaps the best marketing tool has been word of mouth among breast-feeding mothers, McNeary said.

The doctors' next move is to sell the cookies wholesale, McNeary said.

The business' rapid growth has been a surprise to the doctors, who still work in physical and rehabilitation medicine full time.

"It started, really, more for fun," McNeary said. The success "wasn't what we were expecting."

Credit union moving

Freedom First Federal Credit Union has outgrown its branch at Towers Shopping Center and is moving just a few doors over.

Freedom First has leased a vacant space between Fresh Market and Verizon Wireless at the Roanoke retail center, credit union President and CEO Paul Phillips said.

For the past 10 years, the credit union has occupied a 1,300-square-foot space inside the shopping center.

When Freedom First merged with Carilion Federal Credit Union about a year ago, the branch, which is near Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital, saw its traffic increase.

The new branch location is 2,700 square feet and will have more teller windows, four offices and a conference room.

Freedom First also will tear down the old Java the Hut building in the parking lot and build a drive-up ATM kiosk.

Work is starting immediately, Phillips said. The new branch should be open in mid-May. The current branch will remain open until the new space is ready.

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