Posted on August 20, 2012
Originally published in the El Dorado News-Times on August 21, 2012.
By: Allison Gatlin
Ten years after K-Mart declared bankruptcy and was forced to permanently shut the doors to its El Dorado facility, the El Dorado Chamber of Commerce announced on Monday the addition of an Atwoods to fill the vacant space early next year.
Monticello residents Ward and Shelly Rabb have been working closely with the chamber, Union County Judge Mike Loftin, El Dorado Mayor Frank Hash, El Dorado Public Works Director Robert Edmonds and El Dorado Economic Development Board Chairman Robert Reynolds for close to two years to bring a new business to the 84,000-square-foot facility, which has been vacant for the past decade.
Ward Rabb, of Rabb Investments, told the small group outside the former K-Mart on Junction City Road how excited he is to bring an Atwoods to El Dorado. The store will lease the space from Rabb Investments and join three others in neighboring towns of Camden, Magnolia and Crossett not owned by the Rabb family.
“We?ve worked in towns all over the country, we live in Monticello, originally from Hampton, so I know El Dorado very well,? he said. “When we approached the city of El Dorado, Henry (Florsheim), Lori (Coke), the judge and the mayor, they?ve been outstanding to work with to make this project happen.?
Beautifying the under-served southeastern quadrant of El Dorado was on their mind when they looked at the location, Ward Rabb said.
“I think that this side of town is going to grow. … We have another little over 30,000 square feet that Atwoods is not going to take that we?re talking to some other retailers about for that space,? he said. “We?re going to go ahead and renovate the whole building and get some help with the parking lot issues. We?re hoping to improve the appearance of the area greatly.?
Florsheim, chamber president and chief executive officer, noted that the next-door area not slated for use by Atwoods would make a perfect grocery store and encouraged those in attendance to reach out to any contacts they have in the industry.
The project really helps El Dorado solve two problems, Florsheim said.
“One of them we know about is lack of retail ? availability, diversity in retail. So having Atwoods here will help us solve that problem,? he said. “And second is redevelopment of buildings that are vacant, especially in a part of town like this that is a little under-served.?
Florsheim said he is unsure following the announcement how many new jobs the business will create.
Formerly K-Mart, the building has been vacant since 2002 when the company closed its doors in light of national bankruptcy and resulting company shifting, according to News-Times archives.
Since then, the facility has changed hands several times with different aims including a much-publicized call center that didn?t pan out after the El Dorado City Council opted to purchase the building in 2009 for $5.3 million.
Following the announcement, Shelly Rabb said El Dorado?s demographics fit in perfectly with the target for Atwoods, a ranch store whose website touts its clothing, tools and hardware, lawn and garden, sporting goods, pet supplies and seasonal merchandise.
“The consumer base fits in Atwoods? demographics,? she said. “Atwoods has something for everybody. I don?t think that there?s a demographic that they don?t serve.?