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Shoppers christen store

Shoppers lined the entire length of Ames’s sidewalk Thursday, waiting their turn for the store’s grand opening bargain hunt and the chance to win giveaway prizes.

Friday, September 24, 1999

Shoppers lined the entire length of Ames’s sidewalk Thursday, waiting their turn for the store’s grand opening bargain hunt and the chance to win giveaway prizes.

"I’m afraid we don’t have enough carts," store manager Paul Goebel said, smiling as he watched the morning melee.

"We only have 300," he said.

Ames officially opened Monday in the former Hills Department Stores location in Ironton.

That "soft opening" drew large crowds but nothing like Thursday’s grand opening and ribbon-cutting ceremonies, probably because of months of corporate promotion, Goebel said.

"They only two days ago put the Ames symbol on the billboards and Gladys was the key," he said.

That suspenseful advertising campaign centered on "Gladys Smith, professional bargain hunter," who appeared in television commercials and newspaper ads. No store names were mentioned until recently.

Ames also blitzed the state and region Thursday with grand openings at 19 other Ohio stores and the Russell, Ky., store – all part of the December buyout of Hills.

Each store offered the first 1,500 customers a chance to win color televisions and even a cruise, Goebel said.

Janet Lusk won the first TV in Ironton. Carla Harper claimed the second. Betty Lauder won the cruise.

"I never win anything," Ms. Lusk said, laughing and standing in the store’s main aisle. "I just came out to see what they had for this grand opening."

Although many came for the prizes, many more came to check the store’s new look and quality discount merchandise, Goebel said.

"The soft opening crowd seemed to like the layout better and said it looks bigger," he said.

While the redesigned Ames contains the same space as its predecessor, aisles are arranged differently and shoppers are greeted with a green color scheme instead of the familiar red.

Expanded areas like customer service and improved access to departments across the store will assist shoppers in search of brand-name bargains, Goebel said.

In addition, the grand opening kicks off three days of sales and special prize promotions, he said.

"I’ve done Hills grand openings, but nothing like this," Goebel added. "We’re glad to be open and hope everybody comes to see us."

Dorothy Pyles of Hanging Rock, avid shopper who took her second Ames trip Thursday, needs no encouragement.

"I was probably in here every night when Hills was going out of business," Ms. Pyles said. "I’m not really looking for anything special shopping gets me out of the house."

She said she just likes being around lots of people – and bargains.

For Ames Department Stores Inc. of Connecticut, this week’s grand openings mark a milestone, president and CEO Joseph R. Ettore said in a prepared statement.

A record 161 stores, including those of the Hills and Caldor Corporation purchases, opened this year and boosted annual sales to almost $4 billion, Ettore said.

"We have transformed the former Hills stores into Ames’s successful format and have exceeded expectations on every level," he said. "With the expansion of our store count by 50 percent, Ames has become the nation’s largest regional full-line discount retailer."

Ames officials bought the Hills company because it made good business sense and expanded the company into a good mix of urban and suburban populations, said Kevin Roache, Ames public relations director.

Although local residents worried the store would change or local workers would lose jobs, Ames has kept the discount retail concept made known by Hills and has kept all the staff or at least offered them all the opportunity to stay, Roache said.

Each store can employ about 100 people, however, and interested residents may pick up an application at the service desk of any converted store, he said.