A Virginia Beach-based chain of discount appliance retail stores is hoping to make a splash in the Richmond market.
East Coast Appliance will plant its first flag in the area with a 16,000-square-foot store at 11000 Midlothian Turnpike, near Chesterfield Towne Center. The building was previously home to a Salvation Army thrift store.
The company bought the property from the Salvation Army for $2.4 million in a deal that closed Sept. 25.
It plans to open at that location before the end of the year. The property was most recently valued at $2.4 million, according to Chesterfield County property records.
While the Chesterfield outpost will be the smallest of the company’s seven locations — other stores average about 20,000 square feet — owner Rob Nicholson said the former thrift store was the best option that’s come along after a long search for a space in the Richmond area.
“There’s a million and a half people (in Hampton Roads) and a million and half people in (the Richmond area),” he said. “The area has a similar profile, so as a retailer it’s an attractive market.”
Nicholson said he’s optimistic he can carve out a niche for his company in new territory. He plopped his latest store down on a major roadway and near a Lowe’s and a Home Depot, from which he hopes to peel off a few customers by pitching his brand as an affordable option for new, refurbished and scratch-and-dent appliances.
“If you have to drive past me to get to them, you’re going to give me a shot,” he said.
Nicholson also is bullish on the future of retail, despite a string of bankruptcies in the sector exacerbated by the economic disruptions of the coronavirus pandemic. He argued that retailers with a specialized focus still stand a good chance of making a buck. The company places a strong emphasis on its brick-and-mortar operations, though it does have an ecommerce arm.
“What’s working in retail is being specialized. Today’s society expects to go out and get the same price anywhere. If they can’t do that in a store, they will sit in an armchair and wait four days,” he said.
Nicholson said he plans to open another three or four stores in the Richmond region. The company makes a point to own its facilities and he’s interested in buying properties in Colonial Heights and Innsbrook.
Nicholson opened his first store in 1988 after he served in the Navy. The company has two stores in Virginia Beach, and stores in Chesapeake, Newport News, Norfolk and Fredericksburg.
The Salvation Army shuttered the thrift store, along with two other local locations, in May. The stores were no longer needed after the nonprofit closed its Central Virginia rehabilitation program, which was supported by revenues from the stores, a Salvation Army spokeswoman said.
Brian Glass of Taylor Long Properties represented the seller. Rob Heavner of Yorktown-based Retail Advisors and Read Goode of Divaris Real Estate assisted the buyer.