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Will two pay off? Waynesville to break ground on ABC store

fr waynesvilleABCConstruction on a new ABC store in Waynesville could begin as early as January at the cost of $1.3 million, including the land.

The Waynesville ABC Board hopes to capture a portion of the customers who visit the Waynesville Commons shopping complex. Even if they live in Maggie Valley or Canton, maybe they will buy their liquor in Waynesville due to the convenience factor.

“People like to do one-stop shopping,” said Joy Rasmus, general manager of the Waynesville ABC store.

For now, Waynesville plans to keep its existing store open as well. That begs the question: will the new store bring in enough extra sales to cover all the extra costs?

Along with annual construction debt, the new store will mean additional overhead and salaries. It will have to net enough new sales — not just siphoning sales from its existing store to the new store — to make it work.

But Earl Clark, chairman of Waynesville’s ABC Board, suspects that it will.

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Last fiscal year, the Waynesville ABC store did about $2.1 million in sales. That number is expected to jump 10 percent this year. And, once the new store opens, sales between the two are estimated to increase another 10 percent.

But the ABC Board does not have any precise estimates on how much its expenditures will increase with the addition of the second store, Clark said.

When Maggie Valley opened a new store three years ago, it kept its old store open. It learned the hard way running two ABC stores don’t mean twice the profits — in fact, the strain of running two stores led to losses.

That’s something the Waynesville ABC board will gauge as it goes. If it proves unwise to run two stores, the old one would be closed at that point, Clark said.

Rasmus said regulars at the Walnut Street store were not happy to hear it could close when the new store opens.

“The customers have been quite upset,” Rasmus said. “Of course, you are not going to keep nothing open and lose money on it.”

Waynesville’s ABC in October purchased the piece of property near Super Walmart for $500,000. It sits just behind Hardee’s on the Walmart entrance drive off South Main. The ABC Board had long considered buying the land near the ever-busy Walmart Supercenter but was unsure whether it could get a fair price.

“We felt like we got a pretty good deal on it,” said Clark. The land is worth $284,400, according to the most recent county appraisal. But that was before new stores — such as Belk, Rack Room Shoes and Michael’s — opened around it, increasing the attractiveness of the location and presumably driving up real estate values.

In addition to the land, the ABC Board will spend another $500,000 to $750,000 on the construction and the initial stocking for the 5,600-square-foot store.

The simplicity of the building’s interior will keep costs and construction time down.

“It’s not going to be that big a job to build a building,” Clark said, adding that they hope to open the new store within eight months of starting construction.

Although the outside will feature wood and stone, giving it an upscale, natural look, the insides will consist of only a few rooms — a storage space for all the liquor, a shelving display area, an office for the store’s general manager and a break room.

The ABC board met with Mountain Design, a Waynesville-based architectural firm that designed the new store, this week to put the project out to bid. Interested contractors will have 30 days to respond with an offer to build the store.

To cover the cost of the project, the ABC Board secured a 10-year, $1.3 million loan. Although the loan must be paid within a decade, the board hopes to pay it off sooner.

“We would love to be able to pay this thing off in seven or eight years,” Clark said.

The only ABC store in Waynesville, currently, is situated in a strip mall on Walnut Street, where it has been since 1967. The building is only 3,500 square feet and is not adequate enough given the business that the ABC store does.

“We have been outgrowing this place for a long time,” Rasmus said.

The board leases the building for $2,550 a month, but its contract is up next October. The board will decide next year whether to renew the lease.

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