Steve Hobbs knew opening a second store in neighboring Huntsville, AL, was a good decision. But going upscale in a mall location with a new store in a troubled economy national had its risks. Whatever lingering fears Hobbs may have had about his recent business expansion were dispelled earlier this month when Fortune Small Business magazine named Huntsville as the number-one medium-sized city to launch a business.
Hobbs now joins tech start-ups like Orion Propulsion and Q-Track as a growing number of new businesses opening their doors in Huntsville, a city Fortune calls a "high-technology hub," according to a report soon to be released in the magazine’s November issue.
Added good news for Huntsville came when the Department of Defense’s Base Realignment and Closure (BARC) announced that 17,000 new troops would be assigned in the Alabama city over the next four years, giving the local economy yet another boost.
"These are all good things happening for Huntsville," says Steve. "But for us, we found that many people were driving 25 to 30 miles from Huntsville to our first store in Athens, so we thought we’d bring the store closer to them."
In his market, Hobbs has positioned his freestanding store in Athens, which opened in 1984, and now his new mall-based store in Huntsville, as bridal destination stores. "Bridal is coming back and we’re offering more high-end jewelry with Tacori, Hearts On Fire and other leading bridal brands," says Steve.
Hobbs’ brother Rodney and store manager Anna Alexander will oversee the new store at Parkway Place Mall, a 631,028-square-foot regional mall built in 2002. Although Hobbs, his wife Kendra and Rodney decided to go upscale in terms of décor, interior and inventory, they see this as a temporary spot to get traction in the Huntsville market.
"Being in a mall isn’t the ideal situation for us," says Steve. "But this is part of a five-year plan. We’d like to make a strong presence in the Huntsville market in a mall store before investing in our own freestanding store."
So far foot traffic has been light since the store opened last week. Shoppers at the mall taking notice of Hobbs’ new jewelry store are the only ones who have made purchases. That’ll soon change as TV ads mainly promoting the new store and its upscale bridal jewelery offerings begin in November as part of the store’s pre-holiday campaign.