Broad Avenue business boom


Matt Harrelson | Daily Journal Jannae Francois, 35, the owner of Jeanae’s Boutique, shows off some of her merchandise in her new store on East Broad Avenue in Rockingham. The thrift-type store has been open for two weeks and is among a few new businesses to open on the highway in close proximity to each other.

ROCKINGHAM — When the U.S. 74 bypass was built around Rockingham in 2008, the former highway that ran through town — also known as Broad Avenue — was renamed U.S. 74 Business.

That describes exactly what has been taking place over the last few weeks as two new businesses have opened up shop on the highway and another will be cutting a red ribbon this summer.

‘FINE RESALE’ BOUTIQUE

Jeanae’s Boutique, across from Big Lots, is owned and operated by Jannae Francois, 35, of Wadesboro. Although she lives in neighboring Anson County, she knew Richmond County was the place to begin this new endeavor.

“As far as the business, I just opened three weeks ago,” said Francois, “and I’ve only lived in North Carolina for about six years.”

The boutique, which is named after her 8-year-old daughter Asia Jeanae Francois, was completely a “God situation,” she said.

“It was a prayer that we had prayed in regards to moving out and looking in North Carolina so God just kind of directed. As far as moving here to Richmond County for the store, that was still another answer to a prayer. It’s always been a dream of mine to open up a boutique, to have inexpensive things at thrift store prices, and the door’s just open.”

Francois moved to North Carolina from Huntsville, Alabama, where at the time she was an accountant. She also did a lot of ministry work with helping other people. She said it’s a passion of hers and something she’d still like to do here in this area with clothing that she has to help less-fortunate families.

The boutique was not something she had experience with before coming to Richmond County, she said, and was something she dove into when she moved here.

The boutique, according to Francois, sells women’s, children’s and junior clothing. It’s something she likes to call “fine resale.”

“We have nice, whether it be called used or gently used, clothing for the store,” she said. “We also have shoes and purses, scarves, different accessories that one may need. As far as children’s clothing, we’ve got from infants building all the way up to juniors. We have separate rooms for that. I try to specialize. I do not do consignment. I try to specialize to the needs of the people that live in Richmond County. That’s the goal here so if customers are used to looking for a specific thing, I want to kind of reach and bring that here at inexpensive prices.”

Francois’s move to U.S. 74 Business came about through happenstance when she was talking about her dream to own a boutique to someone who just happened to own the building she currently occupies.

“It just happened to be on the perfect location off of East Broad so that’s really how that happened,” she said. “I can’t take any credit for it.”

Another reason Francois loves being in Richmond County, she said, is it’s a little more populated than Wadesboro. Perhaps more importantly to her though, is finding a niche with the lack of the type of shop she’s running in surrounding areas.

“Between Monroe up towards the Aberdeen, Southern Pines area there’s really not, I have not come across, a little boutique or store that has children’s clothing of all sizes that are the nice-quality but inexpensive and women’s clothing,” Francois said. “I wanted to do something in the middle between that so in case there are people looking, they don’t have to drive all the way to Monroe or all the way to Southern Pines.”

Francois definitely considers herself to be blessed with as much merchandise as she has, but that was all accumulated through hard work, generous neighbors and thinking ahead.

“I’ve been storing up for a while,” she said of her inventory. “I knew this was something I wanted to do. There have been a lot of amazing people that have donated. A lot of things don’t even come from in town. They come from out of town. And then I shop for a lot of things. A lot of things are purchased. The bulk of the inventory is purchased by us, but people are more than willing to donate.

“We definitely accept donations. It’s also joined with the ministry as well so nothing will go to waste. This is just something I have carried on since Huntsville to here. I’ve always had a passion for helping people. I just want to kind of pass on the blessings that I’ve received from God to someone else.”

DOWNTOWN TO THE HIGHWAY

Mark’s Floor Covering moved from the space in the R.W. Goodman building to its new location at 503 E. Broad Ave. in the old Rockingham Paint and Glass building for one main reason — the warehouse.

Owner Christian Marks has been in the new building for two weeks after being downtown for almost a year, but before that, he worked as an installer for 35 years.

“I didn’t sell or anything. I’ve been installing for 35 years. I never did sale,” he said. “I used to install for Ken Goodman and the R.W. Goodman Co., and then when they went out of business, Ken and some of the customers talked me into opening up the store.”

Now that he’s in what he calls the “permanent building,” expansion was the key to the move with the warehouse being the biggest selling point.

“I just needed a warehouse, just needed a little bit bigger place,” Marks said. “I liked where I was staying at, but I just needed the warehouse. Ken Goodman, he treated me good and real fair.”

Although he wasn’t sure of the square footage of the space in the Goodman building, the new building, equipped with the warehouse where he can “load up and everything,” is 6,000 square feet. It was an obvious difference between the two, he said.

When first moving into the R.W. Goodman building, the original plan wasn’t to move again a year later, but growth from the business gave Marks enough incentive to find a larger space. The new store being on the highway was just a kicker.

“I had the opportunity to buy this — well, me and the bank did,” he said jokingly, “so I thought I’d give it a try.”

Being on the U.S. 74 wasn’t even a deciding factor. It was all about the warehouse, he said. Plus it was a chance to own his own building. He’s only been open for a couple of weeks, but Marks can already tell a slight difference in customer foot traffic.

“I wanna say yeah,” he said about business being up. “I guess, you know, the highway’s more busy, but we stayed busy when we stayed up there at Ken’s too. I can’t right yet tell you because we’ve been here two weeks if that’s a factor. If you ask me six months later I could tell you, but right now we’ve had a little bit more traffic coming in. We’ve been staying busy.”

SHOWROOM COMING SOON

Liles Cabinetry and Design will open up a new showroom this year in the former Dixie Pawn building on East Broad Avenue next to Mark’s Floor Covering, and owner Titus Liles plans on that being done by mid-July. In the meantime, Liles has operated the business out of his home.

“Right now I’m at my house,” he said. “I’ve got a shop in my backyard. We’ve been in business since 2000. We had a shop on South Hancock Street for about five years, and then we moved when everything slowed down back to my house, and now we’re expanding again.”

The recession, he said, caused the company to downsize a bit a few years ago, but Liles wants everyone to know that his cabinetry business should not be forgotten.

“We mainly wanted to get back out in the public again,” Liles said. “The downside of cutting costs is people think you’re going out of business. We wanna let people know we’re still around.”

The new showroom will house products such as custom cabinets, hardwood flooring, laminate flooring, ceramic tile and countertops for customers to peruse and purchase. Liles hopes now that he has purchased the former pawn shop building from his neighbor, who previously owned it and offered it to him first, he’ll get more exposure being on the highway.

“We work with a lot of contractors,” he said, “but as far as the open public, it will be good for the foot traffic.”

Reach reporter Matt Harrelson at 910-817-2674, listen to him at 12:10 p.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays on WAYN 900 AM and follow him on Twitter @mattyharrelson.

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