The Fabric Problem
One of the challenges the department store faced with the changing times happened in the 1990s as the fabric mills along the East Coast that served as its suppliers closed. In 1996, the company began selling fabric as a wholesaler to fill this void.
“We ran into a real problem: We had no mills in the States to buy our fabric for the dresses [that the Amish and Mennonite ladies use],” Burkholder explains. “We had been in the wholesale business the prior year. We sold suits that the Mennonite men wear, so we added fabric to our wholesale division.”
Good’s Stores found a mill in Central America able to provide fabric, but the mill did not have the prints or colors that the Amish and Mennonite consumers required. The company then hired its own personnel to design the prints and colors and send them to the mill. Now, the company is not only selling those fabrics in its stores, but it also sells them to more than 500 small businesses around the country.
Growing the Company
The continued success of the retail business has made the company reinvent the way it operates by expanding some of the stores. Good’s Stores currently is affiliated with Ace Hardware. Although the locations are individually branded – meaning they are not emblazoned with Ace branding – Good’s Store retail outlets carry Ace products like paint and tools.
In 2005, Good’s Stores built a distribution center and moved the offices and storage areas that had been at its East Earl, Pa., facility to the new center. The company started planning to remodel the old store, and in 2007, it started the design process. Over a period of two years starting in 2010, Good’s Stores added 25,000 square feet of space to its existing 50,000 square feet.
The space at the East Earl store was reconfigured with wider aisles, higher ceilings and energy-efficient lighting. Ace Hardware helped with layout, distribution and lighting design. The project was completed in three phases and the store never closed its doors. At one point in April 2011, the company moved part of its retail space to a big outdoor tent.
“We tried to do everything we possibly could so that our customers continued to be served with the merchandise we had prior to the renovation,” Burkholder says of the decision to stay open. “We wanted to minimize the reason for them to go to another store. We were in a tent, when it was hot, when it rained. Our staff did a terrific job through all that.”
The improvements at the Good’s Stores’ East Earl location have received a positive response from consumers. The company plans on using this model to make some changes to other locations.
As long as there are families in the area that need everyday items, Good’s Stores will continue to have its niche. Burkholder says the company will continue focusing on bringing value to its communities.
“We keep an eye on being competitive on pricing,” he stresses. “We do focus a lot on items a family would use.”