PARKERSBURG - The owner of the new Ashley Furniture Homestore in the Gihon Village Shopping Center has had his eye on Parkersburg for a while.
"We had analyzed the market and knew we were going to come here eventually," said Bob Young, who attended the grand opening Friday of the local Ashley store, the fifth he owns. "It was mainly trying to find the right location."
That location turned out to be the former Belpre Furniture site next to Dollar Tree in the south side shopping plaza. The store opened on April 30 and as of Friday morning, business had been brisk.
EVAN BEVINS Special to the Times
Bob Young, center, cuts the ribbon in front of the Ashley Furniture Homestore he owns in the Gihon Village Shopping Center Friday, surrounded by company employees, Chamber of Commerce of the Mid-Ohio Valley members and local officials.
"We've done more business in Parkersburg than we have any of the other four locations" he owns during that period, Young said.
There are more than 500 independently owned and operated Ashley Furniture Homestores in the United States, but until 2007, there were none in West Virginia. Young moved to the state from Tennessee and opened the first Ashley location in the Mountain State in Charleston, later followed by a store in Barboursville.
While Parkersburg was always part of the plan, a study commissioned by the city in late 2009 to track where residents were purchasing different products outside of the city helped get the ball rolling a little faster, Young said. A few years ago, Mayor Bob Newell sent Young study results on how many residents were shopping at other Ashley locations, and demographics on the market.
On Friday, Newell noted the $50,000 the city spent on the study was criticized by some, especially coming as it did during the recession.
"It was a lot of money at the time, but we knew down the road it would pay off," he said. "All we needed was one store to come in and bring in a few jobs and pay some local taxes, and we'd make that money back right away."
Dunkin' Donuts, which now has two locations in the city, was also targeted in the study.
The Ashley Furniture store employs 17 people, Young said, including manager Jamie Miller, who comes to Parkersburg from the Barboursville location. Barboursville was the No. 2-selling Ashley store in the country last year, Young said.
Young said about half a million dollars was spent renovating the Parkersburg location, with most of it going to local contractors like Phoenix Construction, Professional 1 Electric and Honest Fred's Flooring.
"They did a wonderful job with the build-out," he said.