Local businesses look for niche | PostIndependent.com

Local businesses look for niche

Some businesses and downtown advocates have worried themselves sick over the arrival of the big-box stores at Glenwood Meadows. But at least one local business intentionally moved so it could do business in the shadow of one of the biggest boxes of all ” Lowe’s home improvement.

Sopris Lighting had 23 years of success along Highway 133 in Carbondale, before moving to the Midland Center in Glenwood Springs late last year. The 130,000-square-foot Lowe’s is just up the road from Sopris Lighting, and owner Donna Harris wouldn’t have it any other way.

“We’re taking Lowe’s head-on,” she said.

Harris’ store has already benefited from the move. Business is up, she said, most likely because of increased traffic on the Interstate 70 corridor. With the arrival of Lowe’s and the rest of the Meadows stores, traffic should pick up even more, she said.

The inventory at Lowe’s covers just about every aspect of building and home improvement, including lighting ” from ceiling fans to security.

Harris has already bought into the philosophy of high quality and better service than big-boxes, and she’s convinced it’ll work.

“I’m going to find a niche, and I’m going to push customer service and the knowledgeable staff that I don’t think Lowe’s will have. And I’m different. I have different things. I’m not going to have the styles they have over there,” she said.

Part of Harris’ confidence may come from a few visits she had from Lowe’s manager Mike Van Orden. Van Orden has been making the rounds to local businesses that will likely compete with Lowe’s.

“We’re here, so we’re all going to have to work together,” he explained Wednesday.

Not every business was happy to see Van Orden, something he attributed to business owners being “skeptical.” But even for the folks Lowe’s will compete with directly, the chain’s move to Glenwood Springs could have some benefit, Van Orden said.

Lowe’s offers installation on all of its products, but doesn’t employ workers to do it. It often forms partnerships with local retailers that will do the work for Lowe’s, he said.

A lighting store, by nature, has a niche aspect to it. One store that does not have that advantage, especially facing competition from Lowe’s, is Big John’s Building and Home Center.

Owner John Lindsey isn’t happy about the new competition but recognizes it’s inevitable and is planning for it.

“Competition is good for the consumer. It’s probably good for businesses, too, because you either get better or you don’t last,” he said.

Like Lowe’s, Big John’s sells to both contractors and do-it-yourselfers. The stores also align in some of the products they carry. The secret will be to find niches, Lindsey said.

The changes at Big John’s have already begun. Lindsey hired a new general manager with years of experience selling to contractors. He will also try to promote service and convenience.

The parking lot and store will always be small at Big John’s, the lumber yard will always be drive-through (and will soon have a cash register), all of which means quick and easy access.

“Those things (Lowe’s stores) are big; there’s a place for something that’s quicker,” he said.

Still, Big John’s may have trouble competing with prices at Lowe’s. Lindsey said he believes his store can compete, and that in a year, “We’ll still be a strong, viable company.”

That viability may rest in part on the many people who have shopped Big John’s for years and plan to remain loyal.

“I think I’ll probably go to Big John’s,” said Bill Inverso, owner of Architectural Furniture and Cabinetry. “He’s been here for so long, what would we have done without him.”

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