Hardware prepares to open Lowe's long eyed location in Carroll

January 31, 1993|By Amy L. Miller | Amy L. Miller,Staff Writer

Employees are busily filling shelves with appliances, lumber and other hardware supplies that almost reach the 23-foot ceiling of the new Westminster Lowe's store.

But although it looks ready for business to the untrained eye, manager Larry Smith insists the 65,000-square-foot store won't open until mid-February.

"We've already been pushed back two weeks," he said. "They [management] are incorporating a lot of changes that we weren't originally scheduled for, so we've had to drop back and punt. But I'm glad we're making them."

The store, an average size for a Lowe's, will be completely "state of the art," Mr. Smith said. Some innovations include grouping all the hand and power tools into a "tool corral" and moving the door to the garden center 15 feet closer to the store's main entrance.

"We think it will be easier for the customer to shop this way," said Mr. Smith, who has worked for Lowe's for 13 years.

"No more than a dozen stores have this [tool corral]. The Hanover [Pa.] store, which opened in August, doesn't even have it."

The store also reflects a company-wide shift in business focus from contracting companies to the average homeowner. Customers can find a variety of items, such as televisions, carpeting and cleaning supplies, in the warehouse-like setting.

"Other than food, you can get just about anything you need here," Mr. Smith said. "If you need a sales person's help, you can get it. But a lot of people want to just help themselves and get out. If that's what they want, what better service can you give?"

For the customer who wants to learn more, "how-to boards" throughout the store display the tools needed for projects from drywall and ceramic tile to toilet installation and gutters, and show how the product will look from beginning to end.

Lowe's will also sponsor free weekly clinics on projects as simple as changing a lock and as complex as hanging a ceiling fan. Each clinic will be advertised in local papers and on a display board at the front of the store, Mr. Smith said.

Daily help will be available at the project desk, where employees can determine how much lumber a customer needs for a deck, diagram a remodeled kitchen with a computer, or cut pieces of wood to size.

"We will have the expertise necessary to help you with any project you wish to do," he said.

The nearly 50-year-old company is still interested in serving commercial contractors and builders. Mr. Smith said he expects about 15 percent of the Westminster store's business to involve commercial projects.

"We will still cater to the contractor as much as we can," he said. "They are still a vital part of our business."

The Lowe's corporation has been considering locating in Carroll County for many years, Mr. Smith said.

Mr. Smith, a former regional credit manager supervisor, recalled driving through Westminster in 1986 as the company was looking for new office space.

"I remember seeing the sign on Route 140 saying 'Future site of the Cranberry Mall,' " he said.

"We looked at this very site [of the current Lowe's] in 1986. We thought, and still think, that Westminster was growing and is definitely a good market to be in."

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